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).

10 thoughts on “Taiwanese study links parenting and adult homosexuality”

  1. See the update in the body of the post. Without controlling for neuroticism, and with no non-clinical homosexual group, this study offers almost nothing.

  2. It appears that the Taiwanese are trying to go over ground that many of us have given up on. Michael Bussee is correct when he states that you can’t seperate the reaction from the cause. Even the world’s fastest super computer can’t seperate that one.

    It isn’t that socialization might not be a factor but it is so complex that the whole thing becomes impossible to measure.

    The recent Danish study “Childhood Correlates…” is the best scientific attempt I have ever seen. However even with that study the results can be interpreted in many different ways.

  3. I’ve not yet read the study… but here’s a thought:

    What was measured may not be reality but rather perception or recollection of reality. There may have been no real overprotection but in hindsight it may seem that way. Did they attempt to compare perceptions with sibling memories or any other external factors?

    Similar to the “I knew I was gay when I was two” studies, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

  4. Ken – I think they still use the DSM-III which has ego-dystonic homosexuality. I may write a research review on this one. I do not think it is a very good design in many respects.

  5. As always, the primary problem with these studies is our old friend “post hoc ergo propter hoc”, Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”.

    It is a logical fallacy (of the questionable cause variety) which assumes or asserts that if one event happens after another, then the first must be the cause of the second. It is often shortened to simply “post hoc” and is also sometimes referred to as false cause, multicollinearity, or coincidental correlation (wikipedia)

    The difference in “parental overprotection (undefined) and parental concern” may be a REACTION not a CAUSE. Perhaps the parents sense that THIS child is somehow different. The perceived difference in the (gay) child may elicit a different response by the parents. They may pull away or they may overprotect.

    We need to always keep in mind that correlation does not equal cause. I believe that “post hoc” thinking is THE most common logical fallacy amongst those who look for the “causes” and “cures” of gayness.

  6. It might be helpful if you post the questions you’ve already come up with. A question I have is:

    Is homosexuality considered an adjustment disorder in Taiwan?

    From that paper it seems it is.

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