Public and Private Physical Affection Differences between Same-Sex and Different-Sex Couples: The Role of Perceived Marginalization


  • Erin Kent
  • Amani El-Alayli


Despite its connection with relationship satisfaction, research on physical affection is scarce and fails to disentangle private and public displays of affection.  It is important to examine both types if marginalized couples are less comfortable displaying affection publicly. The present study examined whether same-sex couples display less public (but not private) physical affection than different-sex couples due to stronger feelings of relationship marginalization. It also examined  how public/private affection and marginalization relate  to  relationship satisfaction.  Women in  committed  same-sex and different-sex relationships completed surveys of public affection, private affection, marginalization, and relationship satisfaction online.  As predicted, women in same-sex relationships displayed less public affection than those in different-sex relationships, an effect mediated by general societal marginalization.  Both private and public affection predicted higher relationship satisfaction, whereas feelings of marginalization  by friends/family  predicted lower relationship satisfaction.  We  discuss implications for  relationship counseling and propose new ways of looking at marginalization.

Author Biographies

Erin Kent, Eastern Washington University
Psychology Department
Amani El-Alayli, Eastern Washington University
Psychology Department