Taiwanese study links parenting and adult homosexuality

This study from authors, For-Wey Lung and Bih-Ching Shu in Comprehensive Psychiatry (opens a pdf file in this window) assess adult ratings of parent-child relationships as correlated with sexual orientation. The authors find significant differences between the gay and straight groups in parental overprotection and parental concern. There appear to be significant issues with this study but I thought I would note it since it is quite appropos to discussions we have here. I have written the authors with questions regarding sampling, definitions and assessments of sexual orientation and the lack of non-clinical homosexual group. Readers: post any other questions or observations you have.

UPDATE – 2/15/07: In further review of the study, it appears that the flaws in design outweigh any conclusions that could be drawn from it. Not only was the homosexual group a clinical group (they were diagnosed with an adjustment disorder), they had much higher neuroticism scores than the other two groups which stacked the deck against them. In essence, the authors varied two independent variables (sexual orientation, & neuroticism) simultaneously and attributed all the effects to the homosexual variable. You can’t tell what predicts what and certainly not causes what. Without adequate controls, you cannot say how much of the variance in perceived parenting was related to being gay and how much was due to higher neuroticism.

About all you can say is that a small non-representative group of homosexual soldiers in Taiwan who have an adjustment disorder and are high in neuroticism perceive their parenting as worse than a larger group of heterosexual soldiers in Taiwan who have an adjustment disorder but are significantly lower in neuroticism. All of those who have an adjustment disorder perceive their parenting as worse than those soldiers who do not currently have an adjustment disorder. I am careful to say perceived parenting because neuroticism as a trait may impact recalled parenting. In other words, if you manifest the temperamental trait of neuroticism (negative, prone to depression and worry, generally unhappy), this is likely to color your recall of upbringing. Some research suggests that the relationship between perceptions of parenting and adult pathology are related in a bidirectional manner (children impact the parent’s relationship and vice versa – this essentially means that some kids are harder to parent than others and the quality of the parental relationship and hence the recollection of that relationship will be colored by the temperamental traits of the children).