Psychologist Tim Rampey was on the Bryan Fischer show yesterday going on about how homosexuality is not innate. He mentioned two studies which were supposed to make his point on the clip I have below – one called Calhoun’s Rat Universe and another one conducted by Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Hammersmith.
Rampey described Calhoun’s Rat Universe as a possible social influence on sexual behavior. In this study, there were many breakdowns in procreation as well as other behavioral changes when the living space became overcrowded. This, of course, is a study which is only relevant to situational sexual behavior. Explaining why some people engage in sexual behavior under duress is not the same thing as explaining the development of same-sex attraction under more typical circumstances. And besides, as NARTH writers like to remind us, animals are not human.
Then, Rampey invokes the 1981 report from Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Hammersmith which found very little difference between the home life of gays and straights. Rampey said:
If you actually take Alan Bell’s study, the differences are huge. The number of heterosexuals who said that they were disliked or hated by their fathers was less than half than those who said such among the homosexuals.
It is really sad to see a person who criticizes drug companies for misusing research turn around and misuse it himself. That is exactly what he has done here.
I have the book, Sexual Preference, by Bell, Weinberg and Hammersmith which provides the questions used in the analysis. The authors asked gay and straight participants many questions about both parents. The closest question I could find to one asking participants if their fathers hated them was one asking if the participants hated their fathers. The authors described the response:
A minority of the homosexual respondents said they had disliked or hated their fathers, but even fewer heterosexual respondents mentioned such feelings (WHM (white homosexual males): 29%, WHTM (white heterosexual males): 12%). (p. 54)
The researchers asked many other related questions with similar results. Generally gay males described more strained relationships with their fathers than straights. However, what should we make of this?
If we are looking for a general factor from these data of why same-sex attraction occurs, we cannot assume a strained paternal relationship is the cause. First, let’s examine the implication Rampey makes that differences in ratings of paternal relation mean those differences cause the differences in sexual orientation. Rampey has made a living critiquing researchers for errors in design and interpretation, but he makes a rookie error by implying that correlation means causation.
There are other explanations for the differences observed in relationship assessment. As Bell et al point out, during their growing up years, gay males often appear more stereotypically feminine in interests and activity preferences. Fathers who do not know how to deal with this may pull away from their sons. The father – son issues, to the extent they are remembered correctly, may be a reaction to the development of same-sex interest and not the cause of it. And then relationships can really sour in adolescence when same-sex interest becomes more obvious. Consider these recollections from former clients:
“I was a daddy’s boy until about 7th grade. We did everything together and I knew he loved me. When I got into music though, he didn’t really get it. We kind of drifted until I told him I was gay and now it is pretty strained.” And from a dad: “I never suspected a thing. We were very close but when he told me he liked boys instead of girls, something in me died, I think. We are not the same now.”
Rampey then claims that the differences in Bell et al are huge. However, they are not huge, at least huge enough to explain sexual orientation. First, the absolute number of gays in Bell’s study providing answers portraying a strained relationship was infrequently over half the respondents. Just taking the question referred to by Rampey, note that 71% of gay males did not hate or dislike their fathers. On two-thirds of the questions about father, a majority of the gay males answered in the direction of a good relationship with their father. As a group, straight males described better relationships with their fathers, but rarely was the difference dramatic or indicative of large effects on adult sexual orientation.
Bell et al analyzed all of the differences and found that the only real effect of paternal relationship was if it contributed to childhood gender nonconformity. In other words, they concluded that a lack of paternal identification did not have much at all to do with homosexuality unless a boy also reported being disinterested in typical male activities and interests growing up. Bell et al said it like this:
Unfavorable relationships with fathers do seem to be connected with gender nonconformity and early homosexual experiences; nonetheless, the connection to adult sexual orientation is not a strong one…From these findings, then, we conclude that the relationship a boy has with his father cannot be said to predict very much about the sexual orientation he will develop. (p. 62).
Another problem with Rampey’s use of Bell’s data is that he did not report the additional analysis Bell conducted to separate therapy patients from non-therapy patients. If homosexuality in general is related to poor relationships with father, then this connection should be true in emotionally troubled clients as well as those gay males who do not report mental health concerns. In research, one must not generalize results to general, non-clinical populations from those seeking treatment. Understanding this, Bell’s team compared gay men who had been in therapy and gay men who had not sought treatment. For the non-therapy group, there was no relationship between detached-hostile fathers and later homosexuality; whereas for the group who had been in therapy, this variable explained more of the variance than for the entire group (8.4%). Fewer differences were noted for women.
In short, Rampey does in the domain of sexual orientation what he complains about when it comes to drug companies – uses research to paint a misleading picture.
In part two of the interview, Rampey continues to distort things when it comes to harm of ex-gay therapy saying that all APA concern comes from the Shidlo and Schroeder study. He gets some details wrong and does rightly critique the bias involved in that study. However, he completely glosses over the other indications of harm, including the recent Kirk Murphy case. This is a relevant observation because Rampey quotes a 1975 textbook citing many behavioral modification studies which prove sexual reorientation works without harm. Kirk Murphy’s family would dispute that as would I.