The relationship between childhood paternal bonding and development of adult male homosexuality is documented in research literature. Utilizing the Parent-Child Relations Questionnaire (PCR II; Siegelman & Roe, 1979), 135 males divided among three groups were surveyed: ego-syntonic homosexuals, ego-dystonic homosexuals, and heterosexuals. As predicted by the hypothesis, results showed significant differences between heterosexual and homosexual groups on the father-love, father-reject, and father-attention scales of the PCR-II. Contrary to the hypothesis, a significant difference was found between the ego-syntonic homosexuals and egodystonic homosexuals in the father-reject scale. Conclusions recognize the clinical significance of childhood relationships and suggest further research on differences between ego-syntonic and egodystonic homosexual males to understand the role of family relationships in development of adult male sexuality.
In Sexual Development In 1973, homosexuality was deleted as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association from its of ficial listing of psychiatric disorders (Diagnostic and Statistical Mental Disorders, second edition; DSMII; American Psychiatric Association, 1973) after a long period of political debate and professional conflict (Bayer & Spitzer, 1982). United States prevalence estimations for homosexuality widely vary. Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Gebhard (1948) and Michael, Gagnon, Laumann, and Kolata (1994) suggested that 10% of the general population is homosexual; however, findings from other recent studies differ and range from 1% (Bieber et al., 1962; Reisman & Eichel, 1990) to 2% (Smith, 1990). A study by the National opinion Research Center (1990) found a 1.6% prevalence rate for homosexuality among the general population.
In spite of the fact that a significant portion of society is homosexually oriented and tremendous personal and societal confusion continues to be debated about the subject, published empirical research regarding etiological factors of homosexuality has declined significantly since the 1973 philosophical shift ofthe American Psychiatric Association (APA). The study of all human behavior is important for the sole purpose of increasing awareness and insight. Increased understanding of human behavior is essential in enabling the clinician to better understand any client's life experience, and there is no empirical evidence to suggest that homosexuality should be an exception to this premise.
Investigation into parent-child relations of homosexual and heterosexual men is heavily documented in research literature, and a link between the absence of sufficient bonding with samesex parent or role models and the development of adult male homosexuality has been proposed. Numerous studies have found that adult homosexual males tend to report having had less loving and more rejecting fathers than their heterosexual peers (Bell, Weinberg, & Parks, 1981; Bieber et al., 1962; Braatan & Darling, 1965; Brown, 1963; Evans, 1969; Jonas, 1944; Millic & Crowne, 1986; Nicolosi, 1991; Phelan, 1993; Saghir & Robbins, 1973; Siegelman, 1974; Snortum, 1969; Socarides, 1978; West, 1959).
Bieber (1976) stated:
Since 1962 when our volume was published, I have interviewed about 1,000 male homosexuals and 50 pairs of parents of homosexuals. The classic pattern was present in more than 90% of cases. In my entire experience, I have never interviewed a single male homosexual who had a constructive, loving father. A son who has a loving father who respects him does not become a homosexual. I have concluded that there is a causal relationship between parental influence and sexual choice (p. 368).
Bieber (1976) later expanded and clarified his earlier findings by saying:
We have repeatedly stated and written that a boy whose father is warmly related and constructive will not become homosexual; however, one must not get trapped by the fallacy of the converse, that is, a hostile, destructive father always produces a homosexual son (p. 411).
Evans (1969) expanded the generalizability of the Bieber findings. Whereas Bieber et al. (1962) looked at a patient population seeking psychoanalytic treatment and drew conclusions from information provided by heating therapists, Evans collected data directly from heterosexual and homosexual volunteers who had never sought psychotherapy. Despite the differing methods and geographic locations, the results were remarkably similar to those reported in Bieber et al. study. "The results strongly suggest poor parental relationships during childhood for the homosexual men, at least as seen in retrospect." (Evans, p. 133).
Koenig (1979) asked 23 male homosexuals and 23 male heterosexuals to draw a picture oftheir family with the assumption that the resulting drawings would provide some indication of how the subject recalled his family and the relationships therein. Ninety-one percent of the heterosexuals drew the father figure as larger than the mother figure compared to only 52% of the homosexual group, a difference statistically significant at the p < .01 level. He concluded that family structure and socialization is important in some types of homosexuality.
Freund and Blanchard (1983) compared gynephyles (men sexually attracted to mature women); androphyles (men sexually attracted to mature men); and two groups of pedophiles (men sexually attracted to children). They found the androphiles to be the only group among those compared to exhibit a measurably greater degree of cross gender identity in childhood as well as poorer father-son relations. Also, within the androphilic population, those individuals who reported the greatest degree of cross gender behavior in childhood tended to report the worst relationships with their fathers.
Tyson (1982) states "The final outcome of a boy's broad sense of gender identity, including gender role identity and sexual partner orientation, is largely influenced henceforth by the boy's identification with his ego ideal" (p. 70). Thompson, Schwartz, McCandless, and Edwards (1973) concluded that the role played by weak and/or hostile fathers in the development of male and female homosexuals is prominent in the etiology of homosexuality for both sexes.
Nicolosi (1991) wrote that homosexuality is a developmental issue that is "almost always the result of problems in family relations, particularly between father and son. As a result of failure to bond with father, the boy does not fully internalize male gender-identity, and develops homosexuality. This is the most commonly seen clinical model" (p. 25). Harry (1989) described the uniformity of reports from literature that gay males had poorer relations with their fathers and concludes, "Every study reported] findings that their relationships with their fathers were unsatisfvin~ with the father variously described as cold, rejecting, indifferent, hostile, or simply distant" (p.251). Moberly (1983) concluded that the homosexuals hurtful relationship with the father results in defensive detachment, which is carried over to relationships with other men. Regarding defensive detachment, she stated, "This resistance to the restoration of attachment (in analytic terms, counter-cathexis and not the mere withdrawal of cathexis) is what marks the abiding defect in the person's actual relational capacity, that long outlasts the initial occasion of trauma" (Moberly, p. 6). . .
This pattern continues, resulting in a lowered sense of self-esteem and a decreased ability to develop significant same-sex relationships with peers. Later, and especially if there has been any form of childhood sexual abuse, these unmet needs for bonding and love are unconsciously sexualized. Homosexuality becomes a form of a reparative drive (Moberly, 1983; Nicolosi, 1991) in which the boy seeks a nurturing male relationship to undo the repression and regain the lost father.
Sipova and Brzek (1983) reported that their heterosexual control group reported having kind, caring, and at the same time, vigorous fathers endowed with authority. Homosexuals reported having a view of their fathers as more hostile and less dominant than the fathers of the heterosexual controls. As identification models, homosexuals rated their fathers within a range from not very desirable to highly unsatisfactory. Sipova and Brzek reason that the fathers who are perceived as hostile and less dominant become less desirable as identification models for the boy.
The development of a sense of hostility seems to be linked to the defensive detachment noted in males who were not able to bond significantly to the same-sex parent/role model. "Defensive detachment is only one side of the ambivalent nature of same-sex attraction. The other side is hostility and distrust. Together they form same-sex ambivalence, (Moberly, 1983, as cited in Nicolosi, 1991, p. 105). These opposing feelings toward other men work to prevent full male identification, leaving the individual with an ongoing emotional deficit. Therefore, the adult male is often sexually attracted to his own gender while simultaneously defensively detaching from other men.
Phelan (1993) conducted an exploratory study using the Siegelman and Roe (1979) Parent-Child Relations Questionnaire (PCR-II). Comparing 30 homosexual males and 30 heterosexual males, his hypothesis that homosexual males would report to have significantly less loving, less attentive and more rejecting fathers than heterosexual males was supported. He found no significant differences between the two groups on the other father factors.
Literally absent from literature are studies which compare the father-son relationship as reported by adult male homosexuals whose sexual orientation causes no distress (ego-syntonic) with those who find their sexual orientation to be stressful (ego-dystonic) and with those who are heterosexual. Previous studies compared homosexual and heterosexual groups. While pop culture and political rhetoric suggest that it is the lack of personal acceptance of a given sexual orientation which becomes pathological for the ego-dystonic homosexual, to date, no studies have compared the recollected father-son experience of the two groups of homosexuals.
As Evans (1969) believed it was important to determine the generalizability of Bieber findings to the non patient homosexual, the current study will explore the generalizability of these findings to determine if there is a significant difference in the way in which adult male ego-syntonic and egodystonic homosexuals recall their relationships with their fathers.
It is hypothesized that there will be no significant differences between the retrospective reports regarding father-son relationships of two subgroups of homosexually oriented men: those who are ego-dystonic and those who are ego-syntonic regarding their homosexual orientation. It is also hypothesized that findings consistent with the literature will be apparent, overall, the homosexually oriented males will report having had less loving and more rejecting fathers than their heterosexual peers.
For the purposes of this study, ego-dystonic homosexuality was defined using the definition published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition, (DSMIII; American Psychiatric Association, 1980):
The essential features are: a desire to acquire or increase heterosexual arousal so that heterosexual (sexual) relationships can be initiated or maintained and a sustained pattern of overt homosexual arousal that the individual explicitly complains is unwanted and a sou~ceof distress (p. 281).
In this study, individuals who express no desire to change from a homosexual orientation and express no distress regarding the orientation will be considered ego-syntonic. Heterosexual participants will be those who self-report exclusive heterosexual orientation.
A total of 135 participants were divided among three groups: heterosexual (H = 44), egodystonic homosexual At= 34), and ego-syntonic homosexual (H = 57). All groups were established on the basis of self-reported sexual orientation and self-reported acceptance or rejection of their sexual orientation. See Table 1 and Table 2 for a comparison of demographic information of the three groups. Each participant was asked to read and sign a statement of informed consent. Confidentiality was assured.
Using the same criteria as the Phelan (1993) study, homosexual orientation was established by whether the subject seeks same-gender sexual partnership, desire, or fantasy all of the time, some of the time, or none of the time. Those who responded none of the time were placed in the heterosexual group. All others, including those who stated a sexual attraction for both men and women, were placed in the homosexual group. Because none of the heterosexual participants indicated dissatisfaction or the desire to change from heterosexuality, there was no ego-dystonic heterosexual group for comparison. Participants were recruited from clinical outpatient and nonclinical, noncriminal sources. They were not randomly selected, and therefore cannot be considered representative of the general population.
An attempt to obtain comparable homosexual and heterosexual groups was made. Group and organizational leaders of various homosexual support, church and political groups were contacted for permission to present the survey to their group members. Heterosexual volunteers were sought in much the same way (church and men's fellowship groups or other men's civic and political organizations). Permission to present the survey was obtained from appropriate group and organizational leaders. Volunteers were recruited from among group membership. Group and individual administrations were conducted.
Additionally, volunteers were sought via notices placed on the Internet on various user boards and news services. Respondents were sent the questionnaire electronically. Surveys completed in this manner were then returned via electronic mail and printed so that hard copies could be maintained for future reference and analysis.
All participants completed a questionnaire which allowed them to be categorized on a number of clinical and demographic variables, including race, age, educational level, locale, and sexual orientation, desirability of sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and therapeutic experience.
All participants completed the PC R-II (Siegelman & Roe, 1979), a 100-question, self-report questionnaire designed to assess previous behavior of parents toward their now-adult children. On the PC:R-II, developed in 1973 and copyrighted in 1979, adults serve as respondents, indicating whether each statement represents a behavior of their mothers or fathers during the time when the respondents were growing up. The authors indicate that items are specifically targeted toward behaviors, and not to attitudes or feelings. Separate forms are provided for rating mother-daughter, father-daughter, mother-son, and father-son relationships. For the purposes of this study, only the father-son relationship was examined. While there is considerable overlap, items differ between forms but always fall within the dimensions of loving, rejecting, casual, demanding, and attention. Ten items are scored within each dimension on each form. Items are in the form of statements, to which respondents indicate whether each is very true, tended to be true, tended to be untrue, or very untrue. Scoring is on a 1-4 basis, with scores assigned to individual responses and summed within each factor. See Table 3 for PCR-II sample items. Siegelman (1974) indicated reliability estimates for father ranged from 0.75 to 0.91 for homosexuals. Reliability for heterosexuals ranged from 0.64 to 0.88 for father.
Results were analyzed using the multivariate analysis of variance or MANOVA. As reported in the hypothesis, the specific contrasts of interest are ego-dystonic homosexual men compared to ego-syntonic homosexual men and heterosexual to homosexual (combined groups) men. Additionally, in order to further explore possible differences in the homosexual subgroups, each was individually compared to the heterosexual group. An alpha level of .05 was used for all statistical tests.
The distribution in psychotherapy experience, geographic region, race, income, education, and religion co-varied significantly with the distribution in sexuality between groups (see Table 1 and Table 2). Therefore, these variables were controlled in the evaluation of the differences in each of measured factors across the three groups.
The father love scale (higher score equals more loving; maximum score equals 40) yielded no significant difference in the mean scores between the ego-syntonic and ego-dystonic homosexual groups, however a significantly higher (p<.0001) mean score for the heterosexual group of 30.18 compared to 21.05 for the combined homosexual groups was found. The ego-syntonic homosexual mean of 22.32 was significantly lower (p<.0001) than the heterosexual mean. The ego-dystonic homosexual mean of 19.34 was also significantly lower (p<.0001) than the heterosexual mean.
The father reject scale (higher score equals more rejecting; maximum possible score equals 40) yielded a significantly lower (p= .02) mean score for the ego-syntonic homosexual group of 24.26 compared to 28.19 for the ego-dystonic homosexual group. The ego-syntonic homosexual mean was significantly higher (p<.0001) than the heterosexual mean of 15.45. The ego-dystonic homosexual mean was also significantly higher (p<.0001) than the heterosexual mean. The mean of 25.94 for the combined homosexual group was also significantly higher (p<.0001) than that of the heterosexual group mean.
The father attention scale (higher score equal more attentive; maximum score equals 40) yielded no significant difference between the ego-syntonic and ego-dystonic homosexual groups. The mean of the ego-syntonic homosexual group was found to be significantly lower (p<.O1) than the heterosexual mean. Likewise, the ego-dystonic homosexual mean was significantly lower (p<.O1) than the homosexual group. The combined homosexual group mean of 17.08 was significantly less (p=.O1) than the heterosexual group mean of 21.00.
No significant differences between the two subgroups of homosexuals nor between the heterosexual and homosexual groups were found on the father demand scale scores or on the father casual scale scores.
The current study replicated findings that homosexuals and heterosexuals have significantly different recollections of their childhood father-son relationships. Adult male homosexuals remember their fathers as being less loving, more rejecting, and less attentive than their heterosexual peers. Also congruent with previous findings, no significant difference was determined between the two groups with regard to demands or the casual nature of the father-son relationship. This outcome replicates the findings of Siegelman (1974); and Phelan (1993), and it is consistent with the theories put forth by Bieber et al. (1962), Socarides (1978), Moberly (1983) and Nicolosi (1991).
As hypothesized, this study found no significant differences between the two groups of homosexuals (ego-syntonic and ego-dystonic) regarding recollections of their fathers in the areas of love, attention, demand, or casualness. However, ego-dystonic homosexuals do report recollection of a significantly more rejecting father than do ego-syntonic homosexuals. Additional research is needed to explore this apparent difference. Since sampling was not random, it is possible that idiosyncratic characteristics of the sample contributed to these inconsistent results.
The finding that adult male homosexuals continue to report having experienced their fathers as less loving, more rejecting, and less attentive than their heterosexual peers has been repeatedly demonstrated throughout the literature over many decades. While findings do not necessarily support a single-factor etiology of homosexuality, significant environmental issues such as the impact of the father-son relationship are again indicated as important in the development of adult male homosexual orientation. As Blankenhorn (1995) suggested, the father-child relationship is one of many crucial elements in the development of any child. Deficits in this area may result in adverse effects to the child's (and later adult child's) identification with self as an adult, and this identification is generally considered to be crucial in determining the way in which children and adults form relationships with others.
The need for additional research, including multivariable and longitudinal studies, regarding developmental and current life experience of adult male homosexuals is suggested. Future studies should include the multiple factors which have been examined individually in previous studies, including father-son relationships (Bieber et al., 1962; Siegelman, 1974; Socarides, 1978), motherson relationships (Bailey, Willerman, & Parks, 1991; Buhrich & McConaghy, 1978; Gilbraith & Crow, 1976; Millic & Crowne, 1986; Siegelman, 1974; Stephan, 1973; Thompson, et al, 1973), childhood sexual abuse and incest (Briere, Evans, Ritz, & Wall, 1988; Cameron & Cameron, 1995; Finkelhor, 1984; Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, & Smith, 1990; Hunter, 1991; Isley, 1992; Lew, 1988; Nelson, 1986). Also absent are longitudinal studies which might foster a clearer understanding of the impact of various life experiences over time. Studies designed to identify and measure significant differences between ego-syntonic and ego-dystonic homosexuals are also needed. A continued examination of differences between ego-syntonic and ego-dystonic homosexual men is necessary in an attempt to understand the differing life experiences of these two groups. Regardless of pathology, pop culture, or political rhetoric these issues remain clinically significant and, like all others, must be addressed by the clinician with the competence which can be derived from thorough research free of political bias.
American Psychiatric Association. (1973). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Dh~ (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
American Psychiatric Association. (1980) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Did (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Bailey, M., Willerman, L., & Parks, C. (1991). A Test of the Maternal Stress Theory of Human Male Homosexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 20(3), pp. 277-293.
Bayer, R., & Spitzer R. (1982). Edited Correspondence On The Status of Homosexuality In DSM-III. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 18, pp. 32-52.
Bell, A., Weinberg, M., & Hammersmith, H. (1981). Sexual preference. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Bieber, I. (1976). Psychodynamics And Sexual Object Choice. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 12(3), pp.366-369.
Bieber, I., Dain,H., Dince, P., Dreelich, M., Gundlach, R., Kremer, M., Rifl`in, A., Wilber, C.,
& Bieber, T. (1962). Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study. New York: Basic Books.
Blankenhorn, D. (1995). Fatherless America. New York: Basic Books.
Braaten, L., & Darling, C. (1965). Overt and Covert Homosexual Problems Among Male College Students. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 71, pp. 269-310.
Briere, J., Evans, D., Runtz, M., & Wall, T. (1988). Symptomatology in Men Who Were Moles ed As Children: A Comparison Study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 53(3), pp. 457-461.
Brown, D. (1963). Homosexuality and Family dynamics. Bulletin Menniger Clinic, 27, pp. 227-232.
Buhrich, N., & McConagby, N. (1978). Parental Relationships During Childhood in Homosexuality, Transvestitism and Transsexualism. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, (S 12), pp. 103-108.
Cameron, P., & Cameron? K. (1995). Does Incest Cause Homosexuality? Psychological Reports, 76, pp. 611-621.
Evans, R. (1969). Childhood Parental Relationships of Homosexual Men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 33(2), pp. 129-135.
Finkelhor, D. (1984). Child Sexual Abuse. New York: The Free Press.
Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., Lewis. I., & Smith, C. (1990). Sexual Abuse In A National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 14, pp. 19-28.
Freund, K., & Blanchard, R. (1983). Is The Distant Relationships of Fathers and Homosexual Sons Related To the Sons' Erotic Preference for Male Partners, Or To The Sons' Atypical
Gender Identity, Or To Both? Journal of Homosexuality, 9(1), pp. 7-25.
Gilbraith, G., & Crow, C., (1976). Retrospective Parental Ratings and Free Associative Sexual Responsivity in Male and Female College Students. Psychological Reports, 38, pp. 759-765.
Harry, J. (1989). Parental Psychical Abuse and Sexual Orientation in Males. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 18(3), pp. 251 -261.
Hunter, J. (19914. A Comparison ofthe Psychosocial Maladjustment of Adult Males and Females
Sexually Molested As Children. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 6(2), pp. 205-217.
Isley, P. (1992). A Time-Limited Group Therapy Model for Men Sexually Abused As Children. Group, 16(4), pp. 233 - 146.
Jonas, C. (1944). An Objective Approach to the Personality and Environment in Homosexuality. Psychinfr~c Quarterly, 18, pp. 626-641.
Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W., & Beghard, P. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Humnan Male. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Koenig, F. (1979). Dominant Parent As Projected By Homosexual and Heterosexual Males. The Journal of Sex Research' 15(4), pp. 316-320.
Lew, M. (1988). Victims no longer. New York: Nevraumont.
Michael, R., Gagnon, J., Laumann, E., & Kolata, G. (1994). Sex in America: A Definitive Survey. Boston: Little, Brown.
Millic, J., & Crowne, D. (1986). Recalled Parent-Child Relations and Need for Approval of Homosexual and Heterosexual Men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 15(3), pp. 239-246.
Moberly, E. (1983). Homosexuality: A new Christian ethic. Greenwood, SC: Attic Press.
National Opinion Research Center. (1990). 1990 Report. Chicago: University of Chicago.
Nelson, J. (1986). Incest: Self-Report Findings From A Nonclinical Sample. Journal of Sex Research, 22~4), pp. 463-477.
Nicolosi, J. (1991). Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.
Phelan, J. (1993). Adult Male Homosexual's and Heterosexual's Recollection of Parental Actions Toward Them. Unpublished manuscript.
Reisman, J., & Eichel, E. (1990). Kinsey, Sex and Fraud. Layfayette, LA: Huntington House.
Saghir, M., & Robins, E. (1973). Male and Female Homosexuality. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkings.
Siegelman, M. (1974). Parental Backgrounds of Male Homosexuals and Heterosexuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 3(1), pp. 3-18.
Siegelman, M., & Roe, A. (1979). Parent-C}?ild Relations Questionnaire II. New York: Author.
Sipova, I., & Brzek, A. (1983). Parental and Interpersonal Relationships of Transsexual and
Masculine and Feminine Homosexual Men. Journal of Homosexuality, 9~1), pp. 75-84.
Smith, T. (1990, January). Adult Sexual Behavior. Number of Partners, Frequency and Risk. Paper presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, New Orleans.
Snorturn, J. R. (1969). Family Dynamics and Homosexuality. Psychological Review, 76(1), pp. 763-770.
Socarides, C. W. (1978). Homosexuality. New York: Jason Aronson
Stephan, W. (1973). Parental Relationships and Early Social Experiences of Activist Male Homosexuals and Male Heterosexuals. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 82(3), pp. 506-513.
Thompson, N., Schwartz, D., McCandless, B., & Edwards, D. (1973). Parent-Child Relationships and Sexual Identity In Male and Female Homosexuals and Heterosexuals. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 4(1), pp. 120-127.
Tyson, P. (1982). A Developmental Line of Gender Identity, Gender Role, and Choice of Love Object. Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association, 30, pp. 31-86.
West, J. D. (1959). Parental Figures In the Genesis of Male Homosexuality. International Journal of Social Psycyhiatry, 5, pp. 85-97.