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Moral commitment in intimate committed relationships: A conceptualization from cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partners

Dissertation
Author: Amber Leighann Pope
Abstract:
Diverse types of intimate committed relationships, namely cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships, are increasingly prevalent in the United States (Bumpass & Lu, 2000; Garber, 2005; U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Given the rise in the number of individuals participating in intimate committed relationships outside of the marital context, researchers exploring relationship constructs, such as commitment, in intimate partnerships need to build upon the current literature base by investigating such concepts in samples of cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partners. Currently, the psychosocial literature regarding the experience of commitment in intimate committed relationships outside of the marital context is scarce, and researchers have been inconsistent in how they conceptualize relationship commitment (Adams & Jones, 1999; Johnson, 1999; Rusbult, 1991). Johnson's (1991, 1999; Johnson, Caughlin & Huston, 1999) Tripartite Model of Commitment is one of the most prominent theories of relationship commitment in the psychosocial literature. Johnson (1991, 1999) proposed that commitment, the intention or desire to continue and maintain one's intimate relationship, is a multidimensional construct that is a result of two dichotomous experiences: (a) attractions and constraints forces, and (b) internal and external processes. From these distinctions, Johnson operationalized commitment as three dimensions: (a) personal commitment, (b) moral commitment, and (c) structural commitment. Moreover, Johnson asserted that the Tripartite Model is applicable to various types of intimate committed relationships. The dimension of moral commitment, which is the extent that one feels obligated to stay in a relationship (Johnson, 1991, 1999), has been the least developed empirically, particularly in relation to partners in intimate relationships outside of the marital context. Moral commitment is a constraining force that operates via internal processes. Researchers examining the Tripartite Model in samples of non-marital partners have left moral commitment out completely or defined it outside of Johnson's (1991a, 1999) conceptualization (e.g. Johnson, 1985; Kurdek, 2000, 2007; Lydon, Pierce, & O'Regan, 1997; Oswald, Goldberg, Kuvalanka, & Clausell, 2008). Thus, researchers need to operationalize moral commitment with cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partners in a way that is consistent with Johnson's (1991, 1999) conception to test his assertion that the Tripartite Model is applicable to all types of intimate committed relationships. The aim of this study, then, was to conceptualize the dimension of moral commitment within the framework of Johnson's (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model of Commitment for non-marital intimate relationships, namely same-sex and cohabiting heterosexual partnerships. An additional goal of this study was to inform counselors' knowledge of how commitment operates in diverse types of intimate partnerships. The researcher used a mixed-methods approach called concept mapping with a sample of cohabiting same-sex partners and opposite-sex partners, collecting data through a three round process. The researcher used an open-ended Internet survey, mailing out data collection packets, and focus groups to collect data for the concept mapping process. The intent of the concept mapping methodology was to develop a better understanding of moral commitment for those in diverse types of intimate committed relationships. Several interesting results were obtained from this study. First, participants in the cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partners' focus groups conceptualized the dimension of moral commitment as distinct from that of personal and structural commitment based on their responses to the Relationship Commitment Type Identification Task. Moreover, participants rated the clusters of personal commitment as most descriptive of their experience in their relationship with their partner, with moral commitment being moderately descriptive and structural commitment the least descriptive. These results support Johnson's (1991a, 1999) theory that commitment is a multidimensional experience, and his claim that the Tripartite Model is applicable to diverse types of intimate relationships. The results provided mixed results in terms of Johnson's (1991a, 1999) conceptualization of the three components of moral commitment: general valuing of consistency, person specific obligation, and relationship-type values. Cohabiting same-sex partners typed clusters of moral commitment with items that perceptibly fit with two of the three components, person specific obligation and relationship-type values. Participants in the cohabiting opposite-sex partners group identified one cluster of moral commitment that was discernibly related to the person specific obligation component. Neither group had clusters that were overall indicative of the general valuing of consistency component. Both groups also had clusters typed as moral commitment that were not perceptibly fitting with Johnson's components. Thus, Johnson's (1991a, 1999) theory of the components of moral commitment was partially supported by the results of this study. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

LIST OF TABLES ...............................................................................................................x

LIST OF FIGURES ........................................................................................................... xi

CHAPTER

I. INTRODUCTION ...............................................................................................1

Johnson’s Tripartite Model of Commitment................................................4 Uniqueness of Johnson’s Model ..................................................................6 Moral Commitment in Marital Intimate Committed Relationships ...............................................................................9 Moral Commitment in Intimate Committed Relationships Outside of the Marital Context ...........................10 Purpose of the Study ..................................................................................13 Statement of the Problem ...........................................................................14 Research Questions ....................................................................................16 Need for the Study .....................................................................................18 Definition of Terms....................................................................................20 Summary and Overview of Remaining Chapters ......................................22

II. LITERATURE REVIEW ...................................................................................24

Increasing Diversity of Intimate Committed Relationships .......................24 A Queer Theoretical Perspective ...............................................................26 A Queer Critique ............................................................................28 The Researcher’s Positionality ......................................................31 Commitment as a Determinant of Relationship Stability ..........................35 Commitment in Cohabitating Same-sex and Opposite-sex Partnerships ...........................................................................................36 Research on Cohabitating Same-sex and Opposite-sex Partners ................................................................37 Models of Commitment .............................................................................41 Social Exchange Model of Cohesiveness ......................................42 Empirical support for the Social Exchange Model ...........................................................44 Investment Model of Commitment ................................................46 Empirical support for the Investment Model .....................48 Tripartite Model of Commitment...................................................53 Personal commitment.........................................................55

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Moral commitment.............................................................56 Structural commitment .......................................................57 Empirical support for the Tripartite Model ........................61 Comparison of the Models .........................................................................75 Attractions and Constraints Components of Commitment ..............................................................................75 Internal and External Process of Commitment ..............................77 Commitment as a Multidimensional Construct .............................81 Moral Commitment ........................................................................83 Moral Commitment in Marital Intimate Committed Relationships .........................................................................................85 Moral Commitment in Intimate Committed Relationships Outside of the Marital Context .......................................94 Conclusions ................................................................................................98

III. METHODOLOGY ...........................................................................................100

Research Questions ..................................................................................100 Participants ...............................................................................................102 Procedures ................................................................................................103 Step One: Preparation ..................................................................105 Selecting the participants .................................................105 Developing the focus .......................................................105 Step Two: Generation of Statements ...........................................107 Step Three: Structuring of Statements .........................................109 Relationship Assessment Scale ........................................110 Step Four: Representation of Statements .....................................111 Rating task .......................................................................112 Sorting task ......................................................................112 Data analysis ....................................................................112 The point map ......................................................113 The cluster map ....................................................113 The point rating map with designated clusters ...........................................114 Step Five: Interpretation of Maps ................................................115 Similarity between final cluster solutions ........................117 Testimonial validity .........................................................117 Concept Mapping and Queer Theory .......................................................118 Pilot Study ................................................................................................119 Integrated Feedback .....................................................................119 Other Changes to the Full Study ..................................................120 Summary ..................................................................................................121

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IV. RESULTS .........................................................................................................122

Description of the Sample ........................................................................122 Round 1 ........................................................................................122 Round 2 ........................................................................................123 Round 3 ........................................................................................128 Results ......................................................................................................132 Research Question 1 ....................................................................153 Research Question 2 ....................................................................156 Research question 2a ........................................................157 Research question 2b .......................................................157 Research question 2c ........................................................158 Research question 2d .......................................................159 Research Question 3 ....................................................................161 Research question 3a ........................................................162 Research question 3b .......................................................162 Research question 3c ........................................................163 Research question 3d .......................................................163 Research Question 4 ....................................................................164 Research Question 5 ....................................................................167 Summary ..................................................................................................170

V. DISCUSSION ...................................................................................................173

Overview ..................................................................................................173 Discussion of Results ...............................................................................177 Research Question 1 ....................................................................177 Research Question 2 ....................................................................180 Research Question 3 ....................................................................185 Research Question 4 ....................................................................188 Research Question 5 ....................................................................192 Limitations of the Study...........................................................................197 Implications for Counseling .....................................................................199 Moral Commitment as a Heteronormative Process .....................202 Suggestions for Future Research .............................................................205 Conclusions ..............................................................................................210

REFERENCES ................................................................................................................212

APPENDIX A: RECRUITMENT MATERIALS ...........................................................223

APPENDIX B: INFORMED CONSENT ........................................................................226

ix

APPENDIX C: ONLINE SURVEY INSTRUMENTATION FOR GENERATION OF STATEMENTS ...............................................230

APPENDIX D: DATA COLLECTION PACKET INFORMATION FOR STRUCTURING OF STATEMENTS .............................................235

APPENDIX E: FOCUS GROUP MATERIALS AND INSTRUMENTATION FOR INTERPRETATION OF STATEMENTS ..............................249

APPENDIX F: PILOT STUDY .......................................................................................252

APPENDIX G: PARTICIPANTS’ RESPONSES TO OPEN-ENDED ONLINE SURVEY FOR GENERATION OF STATEMENTS STEP ......................................................................280

APPENDIX H: PRELIMINARY POINT RATING MAP WITH DESIGNATED CLUSTERS: BREAKDOWN BY STATEMENTS .........................................................................287

x

LIST OF TABLES

Page

Table 1. Round 2: Demographics for Structuring of Statements ...................................125

Table 2. Relationship Assessment Scale Total Score Range, Mean and Standard Deviation (n=20) ..........................................................................127

Table 3. Round 3: Demographics for Focus Groups ....................................................130

Table 4. Cohabitating Same-sex Partners Cluster Results .............................................140

Table 5. Cohabitating Oppoite-sex Partners Cluster Results .........................................146

Table 6. Summary of Results .........................................................................................152

Table 7. Clusters by Commitment Type for Same-sex Partners ...................................154

Table 8. Clusters by Commitment Type for Cohabitating Opposite-sex Partners ........................................................................................................155

Table 9. Agreement between Statements in Cohabitating Same-sex and Opposite-sex Partners’ Final Cluster Solutions...........................................165

Table 10. Pilot Study Demographics ..............................................................................265

Table 11. Same-sex Partners Cluster Results .................................................................267

Table 12. Cohabitating Opposite-sex Partners Cluster Results ......................................270

Table 13. Participants’ Responses to Open-Ended Online Survey .................................280

xi

LIST OF FIGURES

Page

Figure 1.1 Point Map ....................................................................................................133

Figure 1.2 Cluster Map .................................................................................................135

Figure 1.3 Preliminary Point Rating Map with Designated Clusters............................136

Figure 2.1 Final Point Rating Map with Designated Clusters for Cohabitating Same-sex Partners ..............................................................139

Figure 3.1 Final Point Rating Map with Designated Clusters for Cohabitating Opposite-sex Partners .........................................................145

Figure 4.1 Same-sex Partners Point Map ......................................................................274

Figure 4.2 Same-sex Partners Cluster Map ...................................................................275

Figure 4.3 Same-sex Partners Point Rating Map with Designated Clusters .................276

Figure 5.1 Cohabitating Opposite-sex Partners Point Map ..........................................277

Figure 5.2 Cohabitating Opposite-sex Partners Cluster Map .......................................278

Figure 5.3 Cohabitating Opposite-sex Partners Point Rating Map with Designated Clusters .................................................................................279

1

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION

Relationship quality and stability have been major concepts of interest in the interpersonal relationships literature for over half a century (Adams & Jones, 1999). For a time, relationship quality was thought to be the most significant predictor of relationship stability, or persisting in a relationship over time, for partners in intimate committed partnerships (Adams & Jones, 1999). As the research on interpersonal relationships has progressed, however, investigators are finding a third factor to be significantly related to relationship stability in intimate committed partnerships. Relationship commitment, the intention to remain in one’s relationship, has emerged as the most salient predictor of relationship stability, independent of the level of relationship quality (Adams & Jones, 1997, 1999; Kurdek, 2008). After the U. S. divorce rate rose in the 1960s, researchers began to focus more intently on commitment in hopes of increasing the stability of marital relationships (Adams & Jones, 1999). Currently, researchers remain interested in the construct of commitment as it explains, at least in part, why and how individuals make decisions and engage in behaviors in their daily lives to maintain their relationships (Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998). Commitment is determined by a myriad of dynamic factors (Kurdek, 1995; 2000). As such, commitment is difficult to operationalize and differentiate from other influencing concepts. Even after 50 years of research, investigators have yet to

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reach a consensus on the definition, dimensionality, or determinants of relationship commitment. The majority of the researchers exploring relationship commitment have focused on partners in intimate committed relationships within the marital context. Diverse types of intimate committed relationships, however, are increasing in prevalence in the U.S. Two types of intimate committed relationships, in particular, are becoming more widespread: (a) cohabiting same-sex partnerships, and (b) cohabiting opposite-sex relationships. Researchers estimate that the number of same-sex couple households is increasing (Smith and Gates, 2001), and that the number of children in these households is between 2 and 14 million (Lambert, 2005; Negy & McKinney, 2006). Similarly, the rate of cohabiting opposite-sex couples is rising, as is the number of such couples who have children (Bumpass & Lu, 2000; Seltzer, 2004). As such, marriage is declining as the only relationship afforded family status, meaning that family boundaries are becoming more and more ambiguous (Bumpass & Lu, 2000). Accordingly, it is necessary to define and test models of relationship constructs with a diverse array of intimate partnerships. Moreover, there is still a climate of hostility towards those who cohabit and have children together outside of the marital context, particularly towards same-sex partners (Green & Mitchell, 2002; Kurdek, 2004; Pope, Murray, & Mobley, 2010). Relationship researchers are in a position to contest heteronormativity, which is an organizing set of norms as well as a production of a way of being and interacting in the world that is based on the belief that heterosexuality is the norm (Allen, 2010; Rosenfeld, 2009). This implicitly locates anything non-heterosexual as deviant and inferior (Blackburn & Smith,

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2010; Rosenfeld, 2009). Heteronormativity also promotes the idea that individuals fall into distinct and binary gender roles (i.e., male and female) with natural inclinations towards relationships with the opposite sex (Allen, 2010). The societal discourse of heteronormativity, along with the history of family values activism in the U.S. over the past several decades, promotes marriage between a man and a woman as a lifelong commitment that forms the basic unit of a productive society (Lassiter, 2008). In order to complicate and challenge the dominant organizing principles and the production of heteronormativity as a structure to organize our identities (Allen, 2010; Rosenfeld, 2009), the researcher incorporated a queer theoretical perspective as an overarching secondary framework to guide the development and execution of this study. As the primary theoretical basis for this study, the researcher used one of the three dominant commitment frameworks in the psychosocial literature, the Tripartite Model of Commitment (Johnson, 1991a, 1999). The Social Exchange Model of Cohesiveness (Levinger, 1965, 1979a, 1979b) and the Investment Model of Commitment (Rusbult, 1983, 1991a; Rusbult et al., 1998) also are widely recognized theories of relationship commitment. Johnson’s Tripartite Model, however, has received attention by researchers over the past few decades because his conceptualization of commitment fundamentally differs from Levinger’s and Rusbult’s theories. Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model will be introduced in detail below, and the secondary framework for this study, queer theory, will be discussed further in Chapter II.

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Johnson’s Tripartite Model of Commitment Ongoing debate abounds in the scholarly literature about which theories of relationship commitment best explain the processes of commitment in interpersonal relationships (Ramirez, 2008). One of the most prominent theories of commitment that is gathering increasing empirical support is Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model of Commitment. Johnson (1991a, 1999) developed a commitment framework in which he contends that there are three distinct types of commitment: personal, moral, and structural. According to Johnson’s framework, each type of commitment is experienced in a unique manner, with each having distinct causes and different behavioral, cognitive, and emotional consequences (Johnson, 1999; Johnson, Caughlin, & Huston, 1999). In addition to the three types of commitment, Johnson (1991a, 1999) further theorized commitment as including two dichotomous dimensions of the commitment experience: (a) the components of attractions and constraints, and (b) the internal and external processes that influence one’s decision and behaviors to maintain a relationship. Johnson (1999) developed his tripartite model of commitment after noting that social scientists were writing about commitment in reference to two separate phenomena: attractions and constraints. The attractions force of commitment captures the idea that partners want to maintain their relationships based on personal dedication and love. The constraints force of commitment refers to the extent that partners remain in their relationships to avoid the consequences of relationship dissolution (Adams & Jones, 1997; Johnson, 1999). From this distinction between attractions and constraints, Johnson

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(1991a, 1999) created a model that conceptualized commitment as multidimensional rather than a unidimensional global construct. Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) tripartite model also captures the internal and external processes that affect partners’ intentions to remain in their relationships. The internal processes that influence relationship commitment refer to occurrences within an individual, such as attitudes, identity, and values. Processes external to the relationship that impact one’s decisions and behaviors to maintain a relationship refer to those forces that exist outside of an individual. These include social pressures, difficulty of terminating the relationship, availability and quality of relationship alternatives, and irretrievable investments into the relationship (Johnson, 1991a, 1999). The three types of commitment identified by Johnson (1991a, 1999) are personal, moral, and structural. Personal commitment refers to the extent to which a partner wants to maintain their relationship, and encompasses the attractions dimension of commitment. Moral commitment is the feeling that one ought to or should remain in their relationship, and is a part of the constraints dimension. Johnson (1999) defines the components of moral commitment as relationship-type values, person specific obligation, and general valuing of consistency. Both personal and moral commitment are internal experiences, and a result of one’s general and relationship-specific attitudes and values (Johnson, 1999). Lastly, structural commitment is part of the constraints dimension, and refers to the degree that a partner feels they must or have to stay in their relationship. Structural commitment is a result of external experiences that makes one perceive the dissolution of

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the relationship as costly (Adams & Jones, 1997; Johnson, 1991a, 1999; Johnson et al., 1999; Ramirez, 2008). Uniqueness of Johnson’s Model The most distinctive characteristic of Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model is that he conceptualizes commitment as a multidimensional construct. Prior to the development of Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) model, a fundamental assumption of commitment researchers was that commitment was a unidimensional construct based on the extent that partners desired to stay in their relationships (Ramirez, 2008). Therefore, Johnson’s framework is unique in the way it describes the multidimensionality of the commitment construct (Adams & Jones, 1997; Johnson, 1991a). Another way in which Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) model diverges from other theories of commitment is that he conceptualizes moral commitment as a distinct dimension separate from personal and structural commitment. Like Johnson (1991a, 1999), other researchers have conceptualized commitment as having an attractions force similar to personal commitment, which is predicated on an individual wanting to stay in a relationship (Adams & Jones, 1997, 1999; Ramirez, 1999). Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) model also includes a constraining force, which includes the dimensions of moral and structural commitment. The majority of other theories, however, only capture the having or needing to components of commitment (i.e., structural commitment) in defining their constraints force, and omit the idea that one may feel he or she ought to stay in a relationship (i.e., moral commitment) (Adams & Jones, 1997, 1999; Ramirez, 1999).

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Most investigators agree that the wanting to (i.e., attractions force) and needing and having to (i.e., constraints force) components of commitment are distinct constructs (Adams & Jones, 1997; Ramirez, 2008; Rusbult, 1991). Although researchers conceptualize and label attractions and constraints differently in various models of commitment, there are significant commonalities in defining these forces across models (Adams & Jones, 1997; Rusbult, 1991). Further, researchers consistently have found the attractions and constraints components of commitment to be conceptually discrete, no matter what label is attached to these constructs (Adams & Jones, 1997, 1999; Johnson, 1999; Rusbult, 1991). Overall research findings on commitment are similar in that they include discrete attraction and constraints components, yet two ongoing issues exist in this body of research: (a) researchers typically include the attraction force as part of their conceptualization of commitment itself, but conceive of the constraints force as a determinant of commitment, and (b) the majority of researchers have omitted moral commitment as part of the constraints component. As a result, only Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) conceptualization of structural commitment is portrayed as a distinct factor across studies, while moral commitment has been omitted from most studies. Although most researchers agree that the attractions and constraints components of commitment are distinct factors, there still exists differing opinions on how to conceptualize these components in relation to commitment (i.e., Are they part of the commitment construct or a determinant of commitment?), which in turn impacts conclusions about the dimensionality of commitment.

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Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) dimension of moral commitment has been less well developed in the literature than have the ideas of personal and structural commitment. At the same time, it is a concept that may provide clearer answers to questions that still exist in the commitment literature about the multidimensionality of commitment. Although Johnson conceptualized moral commitment as a part of the constraints force, he distinguished it from structural commitment in that moral commitment is a result of internal processes rather than external factors (Adams & Jones, 1999; Johnson, 1991a, 1999). That is, moral commitment is influenced by one’s values, which are internal constructions, whereas social and institutional barriers, which are outside of an individual, form the dimension of structural commitment. Both may compel a person to continue in a relationship whether or not they want (i.e., personal commitment) to stay. Some researchers argue that the internal and external dynamics that shape moral and structural commitment are not discrete enough to make moral commitment a stand- alone factor (Rusbult, 1991). Few researchers, however, have developed measures of moral commitment that fully capture the construct as proposed by Johnson (1991a, 1999). Other researchers have claimed to test Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model, but do not include measures to assess all three dimensions of commitment (e.g., Kurdek, 2000, 2007; Lydon, Pierce, & O’Regan, 1997). Therefore, the evidence remains inconclusive as to whether moral commitment is truly a distinct construct that significantly influences relationship stability in committed intimate relationships (Johnson, 1999; Ramirez, 2008; Rusbult, 1991).

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Further, Johnson (1991a, 1999) maintained that the three components effecting individual’s moral commitment are moral obligation to continuing particular types of relationships, moral obligation to other people affected by one’s relationship, and maintaining a general valuing of consistency. Although religious beliefs about the sanctity of marriage and American cultural conceptions of the family as the basic unit of society (Adams & Jones, 1997) may influence the conceptualization of this dimension, Johnson (1999) asserted that his theory of commitment applies to all relationship contexts. While researchers have created measures to assess personal and structural commitment that may be generalizable to diverse types of relationships (e.g., Dimensions of Commitment Inventory; Adams & Jones, 1997), the dimension of moral commitment, as conceived by Johnson (1991a, 1999), remains to be defined and measured outside of marital contexts. In order to adequately test Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) assertion that the Tripartite Model is applicable to all types of relationships, moral commitment needs to be conceptualized in intimate committed relationships both inside and outside of the marital context. Moral Commitment in Marital Intimate Committed Relationships In multiple studies intended to develop reliable measures of commitment with samples of married partners, researchers have found commitment to be a multidimensional phenomenon (Johnson, 1999). These researchers have discovered the factor structures of commitment in their studies to parallel Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model although in many instances their models were only partially, if at all, constructed off Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) commitment framework (Adams & Jones, 1997,

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Bagarozzi & Atilano, 1982; Stanley & Markman, 1992). Components of the factor that coincides with Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) moral commitment dimension in these studies include: attitudes about the morality of divorce, commitment to marriage vows, satisfaction with sacrifice, obligation to children, and willingness to separate (Adams & Jones, 1997, Bagarozzi & Atilano, 1982; Stanley & Markman, 1992). Other researchers have directly tested Johnson’s Tripartite Model with married partners, and also have found the dimension of moral commitment to be distinct from personal and structural commitment (Johnson et al., 1999; Kapinus & Johnson, 2002; Ramirez, 2008). Moral Commitment in Intimate Committed Relationships Outside of the Marital Context Although Johnson (1999) purports that his model of commitment is generalizable to all relationship contexts, his model has only been thoroughly examined in marital relationships. Those researchers who have claimed to test Johnson’s model with samples of partners in dating relationships (e.g., Johnson, 1985; Lydon et al., 1997; Rusbult et al., 1989, as cited in Rusbult, 1991) and same-sex partners (e.g., Oswald, Goldberg, Kuvalanka, & Clausell, 2008) have not used an operationalization of moral commitment that thoroughly captured the construct as proposed in Johnson’s model. For instance, Johnson (1985) and Rusbult et al. (1989, as cited in Rusbult, 1991) defined moral commitment as subjective norms, or the extent to which an individual’s parents, friends, and religion supported the continuation of the relationship (Rusbult, 1991). Although these subjective norms may influence the dimension of moral commitment, this definition seems descriptive of social pressure to continue the relationship. As social pressure is

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external to the individual, the conceptualization of moral commitment as subjective norms is more consistent with Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) definition of structural commitment than his description of moral commitment. Rusbult’s (1991) argument that moral commitment provides little information as to whether partners remain in their relationships is flawed in that her operationalization does not capture Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) characterization of moral commitment as an internal process. In a study about dating partners transitioning to long-distance relationship status, Lydon et al. (1997) measured the obligation to relationship component of Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) moral commitment factor. They found moral commitment to be conceptually distinct from personal commitment in this sample, with moral commitment predicting higher levels of distress upon relationship dissolution (Lydon et al., 1997). Limitations of this study, however, include that Lydon et al. (1997) did not measure structural commitment, nor did they measure the other components of Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) moral commitment construct. Thus, few conclusions can be reached about the applicability of Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model with dating partners from this study. In two studies, researchers have explored Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) theory with same-sex couples. First, Oswald et al. (2008) examined moral and structural commitment in a sample of same-sex partners. Moral commitment was operationalized as engaging in the ritualization of the relationship, such as having a commitment ceremony, and found that religiosity and parental status positively correlated with ritualization. Although ritualization may be a cause and/or consequence of moral commitment, this definition is

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flawed in that it fails to capture Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) conceptualization of moral commitment as an internal process based on one’s beliefs and values. Thus, Oswald et al.’s (2008) results infer that same-sex partners’ religiosity and parental status correlate with an action (i.e., ritualization) that may be influenced by, or a result of, moral commitment rather than demonstrating direction relationships between factors and moral commitment. Therefore, only indirect conclusions can be drawn about the operation of moral commitment in same-sex partners from Oswald et al.’s (2008) study based on their operationalization of the construct. Kurdek (2000, 2007) also studied Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model, along with Rusbult’s (1983) investment model, to test the determinants of relationship commitment in cohabiting same-sex and dating opposite-sex partners. Kurdek’s (2000, 2007) findings did not support Johnson’s (1991a, 1999) theory that commitment is a multidimensional construct. A major limitation of Kurdek’s (2000, 2007) work, however, is that he did not include the dimension of moral commitment in his study, which he acknowledged might be conceived differently by non-married and same-sex partners. This differs from the assertion of Johnson (1991a, 1999) who asserted that the Tripartite Model, including the occurrence of moral commitment, was applicable for all intimate partnerships. It seems clear, then, that researchers and theorists differ in their conclusions about moral commitment among non-married partnerships. From this, a clearer conceptualization of the construct of moral commitment among couples outside of a marital context seems a vital step in the research process.

Full document contains 307 pages
Abstract: Diverse types of intimate committed relationships, namely cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships, are increasingly prevalent in the United States (Bumpass & Lu, 2000; Garber, 2005; U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Given the rise in the number of individuals participating in intimate committed relationships outside of the marital context, researchers exploring relationship constructs, such as commitment, in intimate partnerships need to build upon the current literature base by investigating such concepts in samples of cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partners. Currently, the psychosocial literature regarding the experience of commitment in intimate committed relationships outside of the marital context is scarce, and researchers have been inconsistent in how they conceptualize relationship commitment (Adams & Jones, 1999; Johnson, 1999; Rusbult, 1991). Johnson's (1991, 1999; Johnson, Caughlin & Huston, 1999) Tripartite Model of Commitment is one of the most prominent theories of relationship commitment in the psychosocial literature. Johnson (1991, 1999) proposed that commitment, the intention or desire to continue and maintain one's intimate relationship, is a multidimensional construct that is a result of two dichotomous experiences: (a) attractions and constraints forces, and (b) internal and external processes. From these distinctions, Johnson operationalized commitment as three dimensions: (a) personal commitment, (b) moral commitment, and (c) structural commitment. Moreover, Johnson asserted that the Tripartite Model is applicable to various types of intimate committed relationships. The dimension of moral commitment, which is the extent that one feels obligated to stay in a relationship (Johnson, 1991, 1999), has been the least developed empirically, particularly in relation to partners in intimate relationships outside of the marital context. Moral commitment is a constraining force that operates via internal processes. Researchers examining the Tripartite Model in samples of non-marital partners have left moral commitment out completely or defined it outside of Johnson's (1991a, 1999) conceptualization (e.g. Johnson, 1985; Kurdek, 2000, 2007; Lydon, Pierce, & O'Regan, 1997; Oswald, Goldberg, Kuvalanka, & Clausell, 2008). Thus, researchers need to operationalize moral commitment with cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partners in a way that is consistent with Johnson's (1991, 1999) conception to test his assertion that the Tripartite Model is applicable to all types of intimate committed relationships. The aim of this study, then, was to conceptualize the dimension of moral commitment within the framework of Johnson's (1991a, 1999) Tripartite Model of Commitment for non-marital intimate relationships, namely same-sex and cohabiting heterosexual partnerships. An additional goal of this study was to inform counselors' knowledge of how commitment operates in diverse types of intimate partnerships. The researcher used a mixed-methods approach called concept mapping with a sample of cohabiting same-sex partners and opposite-sex partners, collecting data through a three round process. The researcher used an open-ended Internet survey, mailing out data collection packets, and focus groups to collect data for the concept mapping process. The intent of the concept mapping methodology was to develop a better understanding of moral commitment for those in diverse types of intimate committed relationships. Several interesting results were obtained from this study. First, participants in the cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partners' focus groups conceptualized the dimension of moral commitment as distinct from that of personal and structural commitment based on their responses to the Relationship Commitment Type Identification Task. Moreover, participants rated the clusters of personal commitment as most descriptive of their experience in their relationship with their partner, with moral commitment being moderately descriptive and structural commitment the least descriptive. These results support Johnson's (1991a, 1999) theory that commitment is a multidimensional experience, and his claim that the Tripartite Model is applicable to diverse types of intimate relationships. The results provided mixed results in terms of Johnson's (1991a, 1999) conceptualization of the three components of moral commitment: general valuing of consistency, person specific obligation, and relationship-type values. Cohabiting same-sex partners typed clusters of moral commitment with items that perceptibly fit with two of the three components, person specific obligation and relationship-type values. Participants in the cohabiting opposite-sex partners group identified one cluster of moral commitment that was discernibly related to the person specific obligation component. Neither group had clusters that were overall indicative of the general valuing of consistency component. Both groups also had clusters typed as moral commitment that were not perceptibly fitting with Johnson's components. Thus, Johnson's (1991a, 1999) theory of the components of moral commitment was partially supported by the results of this study. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)