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Associate Professor Laina Bay-Chen, Dr. Eugene Maguin and Anne Bruns, MSW '16, publish article, "Who Wears the Pants: The Implications of Gender and Power for Youth Heterosexual Relationships"

Published February 9, 2017

Laina Bay-Cheng
Eugene Maguin
Anne Bruns

Congratulations to Associate Professor Laina Bay-Cheng, Dr. Eugene Maguin and Anne Bruns, MSW '16, on the publication of their article, "Who wears the pants: The implications of gender and power for youth heterosexual relationships," in the Journal of Sex Research.

Bay-Cheng, L. Y., Maguin, E., & Bruns, A. E. (2017). Who wears the pants: The implications of gender and power for youth heterosexual relationships. Journal of Sex Research.


Relationships in which power is equally distributed are consistently associated with greater quality (e.g., deeper intimacy, less turmoil, more pleasure), but it can be difficult to strike such a balance. Furthermore, dominant gender scripts and norms are complexly intertwined with power in heterosexual relationships. We studied the joint implications of power and gender for relationship quality using 114 U.S. emerging adults’ quantitative and qualitative assessments of 395 heterosexual relationships. Linear mixed method analyses indicated that participants found relationships in which they shared power or were dominant to be more intimate and stable than those in which they felt subordinate, but we found no link between power and pleasure. Gender acted as a moderator such that women rated relationships in which they felt subordinate as less intimate and more tumultuous than those in which they felt dominant, whereas men’s ratings did not vary by whether they felt subordinate or dominant. Qualitative data also showed power imbalances to be more problematic for women: Of the 17 relationships involving an abusive or controlling partner, 15 were reported by women. We conclude that while both young men and young women may feel subordinate in relationships, the consequences thereof are more detrimental for young women.