Endorsed Research

RAC Endorsement R2017-03 (Witherspoon) Exploring Polyamorous Resilience and Strength Factors

The Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) has completed a community and technical review of the protocol, Exploring Polyamorous Resilience and Strength Factors: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach. 

The CARAS Research Advisory Committee (RAC) has voted to grant a formal endorsement for the protocol.  The RAC believes that this protocol has scientific/scholarly merit, follows standard ethical procedures and policies, and offers a prospect of benefit to the community being addressed. The benefit to the community is clear, and the documentation of resiliency in polyamorous relationships and people will be a much-needed addition to the literature.

RAC members participating in this review were Richard A. Sprott, Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology (Chair); Emily Prior, M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies; Anne Karcher, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology; Yulia Brockdorf, M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; Bert Cutler, Ph.D. in Sexology; Bessie Vaughan, MLIS in Library Sciences; and Thomas Peterson, Ph.D. in Religious Studies.

The study will be led by Ryan Witherspoon, a doctoral student at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, in Los Angeles.

Approximately 4-5% of American adults may currently be involved in consensually non- monogamous (CNM) relationships. An unknown proportion of CNM participants practice polyamory, or the conduct of multiple simultaneous emotionally, and often sexually, intimate romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all parties involved. A growing body of work indicates that CNM, and by extension polyamorous, relationships and their participants are highly stigmatized by the general public (Conley, Moors, Matsick, & Ziegler, 2013; Moors, Matsick, Ziegler, Rubin, & Conley, 2013). This leaves participants susceptible to minority stress effects, including discrimination, harassment, and violence, which can lead to negative mental health outcomes (Meyer, 2003). Despite this vulnerability, data indicate that CNM and polyamorous adults generally report high levels of well-being and relationship satisfaction (Rubel & Bogaert, 2014). These findings point to the existence of CNM-specific resilience and strength factors which may be mitigating the harmful effects of minority stress. A review of the polyamory and LGB resilience literatures has identified four factors which may encapsulate these culturally-bound attributes: mindfulness, cognitive flexibility, positive CNM identity, and connection to CNM community. The present study will utilize structural equation modeling (SEM) to test the extent to which these four factors mitigate the harmful effects of minority stress, as well as potentially act as strength factors enhancing well-being, in a polyamorous sample. This represents the first empirical investigation of resilience within this population. Findings may elucidate strategies polyamorous persons utilize to protect themselves from anti-CNM discrimination and stress, as well as grow and strengthen their relationships and overall well-being. These results could furthermore aid clinicians by helping them identify and strengthen these abilities in CNM and monogamous clients alike. 

March 28, 2017