Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Spencer B. Olmstead

Committee Members

Elizabeth I. Johnson, Priscilla Blanton


Research on intimate relationships has mushroomed as the definitions, practices, and contexts for dating change across generations. As an often overlooked population, sexual minorities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered individuals) have received increased scholarly attention within the social and family science research. Whereas this increased attention is warranted, still a lack of research exists regarding dating and romantic relationships among sexual minorities, particularly during emerging adulthood (ages 18-25). The purpose of this study was to explore the definitions, processes, and contexts for dating among a small, same-sex oriented sample of emerging adults (aged 18-25) currently enrolled in a large southeastern university in the United States. The topic was approached using the symbolic interactionist and feminist lenses. Analyses of semi-structured interviews were conducted using a modified grounded theory approach Emergent themes and subthemes were compared and contrasted with specific attention to gay men’s and lesbian’s between- and within-group accounts. Results were that the definitions and the meanings of dating varied between participants. Participants detailed a process of dating that was consistent across gender, although some gender variations emerged regarding casual sex expectations. Last, dating seemed to be facilitated by the progressive nature of their affiliated college environment. The study concludes with a discussion detailing important findings, implications for future research, and recommendations for practice.

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