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Permissive laws, permissive behaviour

The research shows that legalising same-sex marriage will increase prevalence of homosexuality, says a psychologist
Trayce L. Hansen Ph.D. | 21 October 2008
An accumulation of research from around the world finds that societies which endorse homosexual behavior increase the prevalence of homosexuality in those societies. The legalization of same-sex marriage—which is being considered by voters in several US states—is the ultimate in societal endorsement and will result in more individuals living a homosexual lifestyle.

Extensive research from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the United States reveals that homosexuality is primarily environmentally induced. Specifically, social and/or family factors, as well as permissive environments which affirm homosexuality, play major environmental roles in the development of homosexual behavior.

A closer look at the research

Twin study investigations of homosexuality were recently conducted in both Sweden and Finland. Such twin studies compare rates of homosexual behavior between different sibling groups who share varying degrees of genetic similarity (ie, identical twins versus non-identical twins). By comparing such rates, twin studies help sort out the extent to which homosexual behavior is genetic and/or environmental. For instance, if homosexuality is genetic, then in cases where one identical twin is homosexual the co-twin should be homosexual nearly 100 percent of the time because identical twins share 100 percent of their genes.

But that is not what these two large-scale Scandinavian studies found. Both studies revealed that when one identical twin was homosexual the other twin was homosexual only 10 percent or 11 percent of the time. Such findings indicate that homosexuality is not genetically determined.

Instead of genetic factors, these Scandinavian studies concluded that unique environmental factors play the largest role in the development of homosexual behavior. The question as to which specific environmental factors contribute to homosexuality was not answered by these studies although some conclusions are offered by Danish and American research data to be discussed later in this article.

But first, it should be noted that although the Swedish and Finnish twin studies are among the best to date, they still have wide margins of error. In fact, the margins of error are so wide it remains entirely possible that genetic factors play no role in the development of homosexuality. That remains to be determined, but what has been resolved is that the primary factor in the development of homosexuality is environmental.

A Danish research investigation studied two million adults living in Denmark, a country where same-sex marriage has been legal since 1989. This study uncovered a number of specific environmental factors that increase the probability an individual will seek a same-sex rather than an opposite-sex partner for marriage.

For Danish men, the environmental factors associated with higher rates of homosexual marriage include an urban birthplace and an absent or unknown father. Significantly, there was a linear relationship between degree of urbanization of birthplace and whether a man chose homosexual or heterosexual marriage as an adult. In other words, the more urban a man's birthplace, the more likely he was to marry a man, while the more rural a man's birthplace, the more likely he was to marry a woman.

For Danish women, the environmental factors related to increased likelihood of homosexual marriage include an urban birthplace, maternal death during adolescence, and mother-absence.

Interestingly, this Danish research finds that urban birthplace and separation from the same-sex parent both were associated with same-sex marriage for men as well as women. (The latter finding supports psychological theories that have long asserted homosexuality is related to childhood problems—real or perceived—with the same-sex parent). In summary, this study finds that environmental factors that contribute to the development of homosexuality can be social and/or familial.

Finally, an American research study—the most comprehensive and representative survey of sexual behavior in America—reported its findings concerning homosexuality. The results of this study also support an environmental theory of homosexuality, not a genetic one. In particular, this survey identified specific types of environments that increase the likelihood of homosexual behavior. The authors describe these environments as "congenial" to the development of homosexuality.

For American men, the environmental factor most related to homosexual behavior was the degree of urbanization during the teenage years. Specifically, boys who lived in large urban centers between the ages of 14 and 16 were three to six times more likely to engage in homosexual behavior than were boys who lived in rural communities during those same ages. The authors offer the following possibility: "an environment that provides increased opportunities for and fewer negative sanctions against same-gender sexuality may both allow and even elicit expression of same-gender interest and sexual behavior." Note the word "elicit." These researchers believe that growing up in a more pro-homosexual region may evoke or draw out homosexual behavior in young men. The implication is that some homosexual men who were reared in urban centers would not have become homosexual if reared in non-urban centers. The authors explain, "the environment in which people grow up affects their sexuality in very basic ways."

For American women, the environmental factor most associated with a homosexual or bisexual identity was a higher level of education. And though that was also true for men, the pattern for women was more dramatic. For instance, a woman with a college degree was nine times more likely to identify herself as non-heterosexual than a woman with only a high school diploma. The specific elements that create this marked difference are unclear, but the researchers don't believe it's simply due to higher reporting of non-heterosexuality by more educated individuals. They believe one explanation is the fact that with more acceptance, even encouragement, of homosexuality at universities, more university women embrace a non-heterosexual lifestyle. For an example of how that might develop, see Dennis Prager's article entitled, "College Taught Her Not To Be a Heterosexual."

Based on the findings of this American research study, environments that sanction and/or promote homosexuality induce more individuals to engage in homosexual behavior.

Conclusion

All of the aforementioned research studies from four different countries, each utilizing large, countrywide samples, reveal that homosexual behavior is not genetically determined. Rather, the data find that human sexuality is malleable, and environmental experiences and influences can and do shape its expression. Moreover, these findings are supported by decades of anthropological and sociological evidence that reveal that rates of homosexual behavior fluctuate—sometimes greatly—with changes in the social, cultural, and legal climate. The more an environment affirms or encourages same-sex sexuality—whether an urban center or a university campus—the more homosexuality there will be in that setting.

Social and cultural norms, as well as legal regulations, influence human behavior including sexual behavior. So not surprisingly, as the United States and other Western countries have become increasingly pro-homosexual—socially, politically, and legally—they have experienced an upward trend in the number of individuals engaging in homosexual behavior. That trend will continue if we move beyond mere tolerance of homosexual behavior (which is appropriate) to formally honoring it by legalizing same-sex marriage.

Dr Trayce L. Hansen is a licensed psychologist with a clinical and forensic practice in California.

References
Butler, A.C. (2005). Gender differences in same-sex sexual partnering, 1988-2002. Social Forces, 84, 421-449.

Frisch, M. & Hviid, A. (2006). Childhood family correlates of heterosexual and homosexual marriages: A national cohort study of two million Danes. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 533-547.

Langstrom, N., Rahman, Q., Carlstrom, E., & Lichtenstein, P. (2008). Genetic and environmental effects on same-sex sexual behavior: A population study of twins in Sweden. Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-008-9386-1.

Lauman, E.O., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Prager, D. (2005). "College Taught Her Not To Be a Heterosexual." Available on the web at: http://dennisprager.townhall.com.

Santtila, P., Sandnabba, N.K., Harlaar, N., Varjonen, M., Alanko, K., von der Pahlen, B. (2008). Potential for homosexual response is prevalent and genetic. Biological Psychology, 77, 102-105.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | homosexuality, same-sex marriage
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