Older brothers and gay little brothers

Anthony Bogaert has a new study out today about the older brother theory. Well, technically tomorrow, since it is not out on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science website yet. This study seems to leave the “feared older brother” theory looking pretty shabby. However, the hype over the study is sure to overlook Blanchard and Bogaert’s estimates that only about 15% of gay men owe their attractions to this effect.

I have been reviewing prior work in this area today. About half of the studies looking for a birth order effect have found it. The studies have either found no effect or an elevated ratio of brothers to sisters of gay men. One study examined the feminity hypothesis. Anthony Bogaert looked for a birth order effect in a general sample of homosexual men and then in very feminine men. He found it in very feminine gay men but not in a general sample, even among more feminine (but non – gender identity disordered) gay men. I would like to see a general study of cross gender behavior and sex ratio but this was not examined. In any case, cross gender behavior in childhood does explain some of the orientation in extremely feminine cases but not in all cases.

This study like most biological studies is a challenge for the media to report. Here a potentially very misleading statement from the LA Times writer: “In an analysis of 905 men and their siblings, Canadian psychologist Anthony Bogaert found no evidence that social interactions among family members play any role in determining whether a man is gay or straight.” Of course it is correct; the authors found no evidence, but the statement leaves the impression that the authors looked for all possible “social interactions between family members” and didn’t find anything. It appears they only looked a birth order.

11 thoughts on “Older brothers and gay little brothers”

  1. As an ex-gay, I am personally not afraid to deal w/ any truth relating to biological factors contributing to SSA. I am bothered, however, by poor science, poor logic and stereotypes. In my opinion, biological factors are just that – factors; humans are not bio-robots, we have free-will. I am interested to see if there will be any definitive study on the actual biological cause that this study seems to imply.

  2. What I don’t understand is that ALL of the ex-gay groups I read about seem to denounce ANY type of genetic predisposition to same-sex attraction, despite the number of studies in the last 10 years that seem to support a connection? What are they trying to do? what are they afraid of? I agree with an earlier post that compared people with SSA to alcoholics – I think it is pretty accepted that there is strong genetic component to alcoholism, so why not homosexuality???

  3. correction… having now finally read the report, I can’t claim that it ruled out maternal raising, as I earlier claimed. While the adoption of some sons seems to eliminate this factor, the authors didn’t claim it – so I won’t either.

    However, it does seem to eliminate the impact that could have resulted from family structure variations, in other words it weakens the traditional sense of “nurture” claims.

    However, as what Dr. Throckmorton postulates is not traditional nurture but rather environmental reaction to a biological propensity to atypical gender interests, this study does not threaten his position, as I see it.


  4. Warren,

    “Of course it is correct; the authors found no evidence, but the statement leaves the impression that the authors looked for all possible “social interactions between family members” and didn’t find anything. It appears they only looked a birth order.”

    It appears that they did look for more than just birth order. The previous study identified a correlation with birth order. This one sought to eliminate other extraneous causal factors.

    It eliminated “raised by mother”, “presence of older brothers in the household”, and “paternal older siblings or adopted siblings”. From what I’ve read (which has not yet been the full report – I’m still trying to get it) the increased rate of incidence had no correlation with these factors.

    While there may be other social interactions that could have an impact specifically on younger male siblings that would not have an impact on older male siblings, I, for one, can’t think of any.

    That isn’t to say that they aren’t there, but it does suggest that the most obvious ones have been eliminated.

    Timothy Kincaid

    (ps I’m still pondering the other matter and will get back to you shortly)

  5. Peter: I agree. Headlines all over the world are overstating this study. Rarely does a reporter understand the limited application of the birth order effect.

  6. Interesting stuff…

    Even if the media doesn’t emphasize it, anyone with anecdotal knowledge of gay men recognizes that plenty of us are first-born or only children.

    Grantdale, the emphasis I got from listening to Nicolosi a couple weeks ago was early intervention. To the extent he finds this study to be credible about creating what he referred to as the “predisposition to homosexuality,” I’d imagine him continuing to teach his prevention regimen: Teach your sons that danger is fun, make dad a strong figure in the household, and so on.

    Nicolosi did say during his talk that boys with “the predisposition” who had older brothers nearly always had an antagonistic relationship with them.

  7. Warren, unless you consider the idea of mothers being compelled to have less than one, possibly two sons, at most. Expect this on NARTH, 2 weeks time.

    Not sure we would call that “reparative”, strictly; but these are weird times, afterall. Every term is up for revision.

    Up is down. Blue walls are Gold walls. And gay is merely “tempted by same sex attractions” 🙂

    It will be interesting to thunder through the numbers though, when released. Hang on to your hair units.

  8. I continue to believe nothing in this research supports a direct line of cause between the womb and homosexual orientation. The differences would be in brain organization and toward possible gender atypical interests. I do think this is quite compelling research though and discounts typical reparative explanations.

  9. Dr. Throckmorton:

    This is the first study that seemingly the researchers themselves seem to be implying more of a biological basis than other studies shown. I suppose it’s too early to make an analysis?


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