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under some circumstances” (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983: 585). Of course, it is not known which of these “understandings” are truly polyamorous, as opposed to an allowance for occasional one-night stands (for example). Additionally, although Blumstein and Schwartz recruited a large and highly diverse sample, they did not acquire a random sample and may have some sampling bias in their results.
In 1986, a study by Rubin and Adams compared failure rates of open marriages with those of closed (traditional) marriages. This was a small-scale study including 82 couples matched on presence of children, age, and socioeconomic variables (Rubin and Adams, 1986: 312). They originally questioned couples in 1978 and then again in 1983 and found no statistically significant difference in marriage failure rates. The sexually open couples and sexually closed couples also showed similar levels of sexual jealousy and happiness in their relationships. The biggest difference between the two groups of couples was in the changeability of household makeup, with sexually open couples being much more likely to have experienced a change in the number of people living in their household between 1978 and 1983.
These studies were conducted in the 1980s. We have no accurate sense of how many people practice polyamory currently, how their practices are conducted and perceived, or whether there are significant differences in couple stability, happiness, and other characteristics of sexual relationships or personal development.
Sexuality through the Life-Course
In this section we will outline the process of sexual development that occurs across a person’s life. This process is a biopsychosocial one, influenced by biological maturation/aging, progression through the socially defined stages of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and later