Study of the Day: Strict Parenting and Same-Sex Urges Lead to Homophobia

New research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that anti-gay prejudice may stem from restrictive upbringings and repressed homosexual desires.

Study of the Day
A man prepares a banner during a gathering to oppose a law that allows same-sex couples to adopt. Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters

PROBLEM: Time and again, stridently anti-gay public figures like Larry Craig and Ted Haggard are caught in same-sex scandals. Is there a relationship between homophobia and homosexuality?

METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by University of Essex lecturer Netta Weinstein looked into the discrepancies between the overt and implicit sexual orientation of participants in a series of experiments. In one of them, a split-second timed task, the scientists first subliminally primed the subjects by flashing either the word "me" or "others" on a computer screen for 35 milliseconds. They then showed the participants words like "homosexual" and "heterosexual" as well as pictures of straight and gay couples, and measured how quickly they could place these in "gay" or "straight" categories. A faster association of "me" with "gay" and a slower association of "me" with "straight" indicated an implicit gay orientation. The authors also inquired about their attitudes toward anti-gay policies and the type of parents they had growing up.

RESULTS: Across all of the experiments, the subjects with supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation, while those from authoritarian homes revealed the greatest discrepancy between explicit and implicit attraction.

CONCLUSION: The fear, anxiety, and aversion that some seemingly heterosexual people hold toward gays and lesbians can grow out of their own repressed same-sex desires, says co-author and University of Rochester psychologist Richard Ryan in a statement. "In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward."

SOURCE: The full study, "Parental Autonomy Support and Discrepancies Between Implicit and Explicit Sexual Identities: Dynamics of Self-Acceptance and Defense," is published in the journal Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In