Over the next several days, I am going to comment on lots of new research out of Finland. Here is a preliminary post with a result sure to be surprising to some.
First the reference and abstract:
Alanko K, Santtila P, Witting K, Varjonen M, Jern P, Johansson A, von der Pahlen B, Kenneth Sandnabba N., Psychiatric Symptoms and Same-Sex Sexual Attraction and Behavior in Light of Childhood Gender Atypical Behavior and Parental Relationships,
J Sex Res. 2009 Apr 2:1-11. [Epub ahead of print]
This study explores the relation between the level of current symptoms of depression and anxiety and recalled childhood gender atypical behavior (GAB), and quality of relationships with parents among men and women who reported same-sex sexual attraction or engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and men and women who did not. Matched pairs, 79 men (n = 158) and 148 women (n = 296), with equal levels of GAB were created of Finnish participants with either same-sex sexual attraction or behavior and participants without. The measures used were retrospective questionnaires. Ratings of maternal and paternal over-control and coldness differed as a function of same-sex sexual attraction or behavior. Childhood GAB was correlated with negative ratings of parental relationships. Both same-sex sexual attraction or behavior and a history of childhood GAB affected the reported levels of current depression and anxiety. Only gender typical participants with no same-sex sexual attraction or behavior reported significantly lower levels of symptoms. The findings suggest that childhood GAB is related to later distress both among hetero- and homosexual individuals. The elevated level of psychological distress among homosexual individuals, reported in several studies, might-to some extent-be caused by their generally higher levels of childhood GAB as opposed to a homosexual orientation per se.
The study investigated 3 hypotheses. They were:
1. Childhood GAB is related to a negative parent-child relationship.
2. Homosexual orientation is related to a negative parent-child relationship.
3. Childhood GAB, more than current sexual orientation, predicts the level of current psychiatric symptoms.
This study emerges from an ongoing research program at the Center of Excellence for Behavior Genetics, Department of Psychology, Abo Akademi University in Turku, Finland. I will have more to say about the entire study in later posts, I want to lead off with one of the more provocative findings of this paper.
Regarding their fathers, the authors found that gay males reported warmer relationships than straight males. The researchers stated,
A distant (cold) relationship with the father of gay men was expected on the basis of previous studies; however, in this study, gay men reported warmer paternal, as well as maternal, relationships than heterosexual men did.
There is more to report here but that one will get us started. I am tracking down the instrument used to assess relationship warmth which will demonstrate more clearly what the modest differences signify.
Overall, the study finds that GAB also relates to negative parenting and current distress whether the participants were gay or straight. The GAB factor may help unravel some of the findings of poorer mental health outcomes previously reported for gays and lesbians.