Archive for the ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ Category
Repeatedly, researchers have found the classic triadic (three-way) relationship in the family backgrounds of homosexual men. In this situation, the mother often has a poor or limited relationship with her husband, so she shifts her emotional needs to her son. The father is usually nonexpressive and detached and often is critical as well. So in the triadic family pattern we have the detached father, the overinvolved mother, and the temperamentally sensitive, emotionally attuned boy who fills in for the father where the father falls short.
The close emotional bond is between mother and son. She feels bad for her son: “I’m his only safe haven, and everyone else makes fun of him. His peers reject him; his father seems to have forgotten him; so I’m the only one who understands and accepts him exactly as he is.” That last is the killer phrase: “as he is.” It is as if “who the boy is” could include his androgynous fantasies, fear of other males, rejection of his own body, and discomfort with his masculine nature.
At this point, education is necessary. Mothers need to understand that they can actively discourage distortion about gender without rejecting the boy himself. In fact, it is not a matter of rejection at all, but instead of offering adult guidance to prepare the boy for life in a gendered world — the world to which his anatomy has destined him — and of refusing to participate in his distortions about males and masculinity.
On the other hand, many of the mothers who come to our counselling office are very concerned about their sons’ poor gender esteem or effeminacy, and they want to help them reach normal gender maturity, no matter how challenging that work may become. They intuitively understand the problem their sons are having, and they are at a loss to know how to help their child and to enlist their husbands in the process. They are grateful for whatever direction and advice I am able to provide for them.
A few mothers (particularly, narcissistic mothers) establish a relationship with such a profound blurring of boundaries that the boy is not able to clarify his own individual identity. Mothers who create such an intimate, symbiotic relationship will allow nothing to interrupt the mother-son bond. The longer the profound symbiotic relationship continues, the more feminine the boy. Of course, a mother who is upset by a boy’s normal, rowdy behavior — and who reacts by encouraging him to be more passive and dependent (even though the boy’s real need is for independence) — is putting her own needs before those of her son.
The authors of Someone I Love Is Gay describe this maternal pattern:
Sometimes the relationship is so close that it becomes unhealthy, even bordering on a state of “emotional adultery.” Typically, the son is his mother’s confidante. She talks about her marital problems with him, rather than working them out with her husband. She looks to her son for emotional support and comfort when things go wrong.
In some cases, the mother’s behavior crosses the line into sensuality… Single mothers and women with abusive or emotionally distant husbands are particularly vulnerable to becoming overly dependent on their son.
In some rare cases, mothers of homosexual boys wanted to be men themselves, and they sabotaged their sons’ masculinity by putting themselves in competition with them.
All in all, there is considerable research showing that families of gender-disturbed boys tend to be in turmoil. One study of 610 Gender Identity Disorder (GID) boys found a high level of family conflicts. Many clinicians have observed a higher rate of parental divorce, separation, and marital unhappiness in their homosexual clients’ families, and many parents of GID children had undergone counseling before their child’s gender-identity disorder came to clinical attention.
Psychologist Gregory Dickson points out a paradox regarding the intense mother-son relationship. The gender-conflicted boy usually feels an ongoing need for mothering, but because the mother-son relationship represents a barrier between himself and the male world, the boy feels both angry and appreciative toward her. He also feels both misunderstood and most understood by her. His mother knows him very deeply on one level, but there is another level where she can never go and which she has not fully acknowledged as an integral part of who he is as a male. So there results a paradoxical love-hate, approach-avoidance conflict.
Hasn’t This Research About Parenting influences Been Disproved?
In spite of what you hear from gay activists, no literature disproves the classical theories describing the way homosexuality develops. In fact, a 1996 book, Freud Scientifically Reappraised: Testing the Theories and Therapy, evaluated the prominent psychoanalytic theories in the light of the data now available through modern research. The authors did find conflicting results on the maternal relationship, but the research on fathers was clear:
The reports concerning the male homosexual’s view of his father are overwhelmingly supportive of Freud’s hypothesis. With only a few exceptions, the male homosexual declares that father has been a negative influence in his life…
There is not a single even moderately well-controlled study that we have been able to locate in which male homosexuals refer to father positively or affectionately. On the contrary, they consistently regard him as an antagonist. He easily fills the unusually intense, competitive Oedipal role Freud ascribed to him.
It is important to emphasize here that the overinvolved mother is used repeatedly by us here in this book as the example of the mother of a gender-confused boy. Because the deeply involved mother is almost always the type to bring a child in for consultation — and to actively work for change — she is the type of mother we have used to illustrate case scenarios. Indeed, the intimately involved mother is most likely to unwittingly encourage a son’s gender nonconformity. But not all mothers are overinvolved. In fact, among adult homosexual clients, a smaller percentage of their mothers were actually disengaged.
This observation fits in with the findings of Freud Scientifically Reappraised, in which the researchers analyzed the available studies and found that there is some inconsistency in findings about mothers. But — as those researchers agree — the one virtually unchanging variable is the poor relationship with fathers.
Quite a wake-up call, we would say, for fathers who hope for heterosexuality for their sons!
Nicolosi, J., Nicolosi, L. (2002). A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press
We cannot go along with people who — many of them within the mental health profession — say that each of us can “be whatever we want to be,” in terms of gender identity or sexual orientation. They speak as if being gay or lesbian did not have the deepest consequences for us as individuals, for our culture, and for the human race. They speak as if our anatomy was in no way our destiny. They imply that when we help our children to grow more fully into the maleness or femaleness that is their created destiny. we are merely perpetuating outdated gender stereotypes.
But the human race was designed male and female; there is no third gender. Furthermore, civilization has shown us that the natural human family (father, mother and children), with all its faults, is the best possible environment for the nurturing of future generations. Have we really gotten it all wrong for so many hundreds of centuries? Are we going to cast all of history aside, in favor of the latest TV show about the glories of gender bending?
As one prominent psychoanalyst, Dr. Charles Socarides, says, “Nowhere do parents say, ‘It makes no difference to me if my child is homosexual or heterosexual.’” Given a choice, most parents would prefer that their children not find themselves in homosexual behavior.
It is fashionable in intellectual circles to believe that we human beings have no innate “human nature” and that the essence of being human is the freedom to redefine ourselves as we wish. But what good can freedom bring us, if it is used in defiance of who we are?
Some things, we would argue, are not redefinable. If indeed normality is “that which functions according to its design’ — and we believe that to be true — then nature calls upon us to fulfill our destinies as male and female.
In this book we will use the following terms interchangeably: prehomosxual, gender-conflicted, gender-confused, and gender-disturbed. All of those conditions have the potential to lead to a homosexual outcome. Gender-identity disorder (GID) refers to a psychiatric condition that is an extreme example of this same problem of internal gender conflict. In GID the child is unhappy with his or her biological sex. Many of the children we describe — in the course of their development toward homosexuality — fell short of the strict criteria for a clinicla diagnosis of GID, but the warning signs of gender conflict and homosexuality were there nonetheless.
Nicolosi, J., Nicolosi, L. (2002). A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press
Homosexuality is not adequately explained by a disturbed or detached relationship with the same-sex parent, and/or an overattachment to the opposite-sex parent, no matter how frequently these are associated with it. For one thing, such relationships are often seen in pedophiliacs as well, and in other sexual neurotics (Mohr et al. 1964, 61, 140). Moreover, there are normal heterosexuals with similar parent-child interactions. Secondly, as remarked above, neither do cross-gender behavior and interests necessarily lead to homosexuality.
Even a gender inferiority complex, however, may take various forms, and erotic fantasies flowing from it may not only be directed to young or more mature adults of the same sex, but also to children of the same sex (homosexual pedophilia), or possibly to persons of the opposite sex. The woman-chaser, for instance, often suffers from a variant of the masculinity inferiority complex. The decisive factor for homosexuality is the fantasy. And fantasy is shaped by self-image, the view of others — with regard to one’s gender qualities — and chance events, such as determinative social contacts and experiences in puberty. The gender inferiority complex is the stepping-stone to a variety of frustration-borne sexual fantasies.
Feeling less masculine or feminine as compared to same-sex peers is tantamount to the feeling of not belonging. Many prehomosexual boys had the feeling of “not belonging” with their fathers, brothers, or other boys, and prelesbian girls with their mothers, sisters or other girls. To illustrate the importance of “belonging” for gender identity and gender-conforming behavior, an observation by Green (1987) may serve. Of a pair of identical twin brothers, one became homosexual, the other heterosexual; the heterosexual was the one who bore his father’s name.
“Not belonging”, inferiority feelings, and loneliness inter-connect. Now the question is, how do these feelings lead to homosexual desires? To see through this, the notion of “inferiority complex” must be clarified.
The child and the adolescent automatically react to feelings of inferiority and “not belonging” with self-pity or self-dramatization. They inwardly perceive themselves as pathetic, pitiable, poor creatures. The word “self-dramatization” is correct, for it describes the child’s tendency to view himself as the tragic center of the world. “Nobody understands me”; “nobody loves me”; “everybody is against me”; “my life is all misery” — the young ego does not and for the most part cannot accept his sorrow, much less perceive its relativity or view it as something that will pass. The self-pity reaction is very strong, and it is easy to give way to it. For self-pity, to a degree, has a comforting effect, as does the pity one receives from other people in times of grief. Self-pity provides warmth; it consoles because there is something sweet in it. Est quaedam flere voluptus, there is a certain lust in crying, according to the ancient poet Ovid (Tristia). The child or adolescent who feels himself to be a “poor me” can become attached to this attitude, especially when he withdraws into himself and has no one to help him work through his problems with understanding, encouragement, and firmness. Self-dramatization is particularly typical in adolescence, when the young person easily feels a hero, special, unique, even in his sufferings. If the attachment to self-pity remains, then the complex proper, that is, the inferiority complex, comes into existence. In the mind, the habit of feeling like a “poor inferiority me” is fixated. It is this “poor me” within who feels unmasculine, unfeminine, alone, and “not belonging” to the peer group.
Initially, self-pity works like good medicine. Rather soon, however, it works more like a drug that enslaves. At that point, it has become — unconsciously — a habit of self-comforting, of concentrated self-love. The emotional life has become neurotic essentially: addicted to self-pity. With the child’s or adolescent’s instinctive, strong egocenteredness this proceeds automatically, unless there are affectionate and strengthening interventions from the outside world. The ego will forever remain the hurt, poor one who pities himself; it remains the same child-ego. All views, efforts, and desires of the “child of old” have been preserved in this “poor me.”
The “complex” is therefore fed by a lasting self-pity, by an inner complaining about oneself. Without this infantile (adolescent) self-pity, there is no complex. Inferiority feelings can exist temporarily, but if enduring self-pity takes root, they stay alive, often as fresh and strong when the person is fifty years old as when he was fifteen. “Complex” means that the inferiority feelings have become autonomous, recurring, always active, though more intense at some times than at others. Psychologically, the person in part remains the child or adolescent he was and no longer matures, or hardly, in the areas where the inferiority feelings reign. In homosexuals, this is the area of self-image in terms of gender characteristics and gender-related behavior.
As bearers of an inferiority complex, homosexuals are unconsciously self-pitying “adolescents.” Complaining about their psychical or physical condition, about being wrongly treated by others, about their life, fate, and environment, is typical with many of them, as well as with those who play the role of being always happy. They are as a rule not aware of their self-pity addiction. They see their complaints as justified, not as coming from a need to complain and to feel sorry for themselves. This need for misery and self-torment is peculiar. Psychologically, it is a so-called quasi-need (“Quasi-Bedurfnis“), an attachment to the pleasure of complaining and self-pity, to playing the part of the tragic one.
Acquiring insight into the central neurotic drive of complaining and inner self-pity is sometimes difficult for therapists and others seeking to help homosexual persons. More often than not, those who have heard about the self-pity concept think it a little far-fetched to assume that unconscious infantile self-pity could be that basic to homosexuality. What is generally remembered and agreed on concerning this explanation is the notion of “feelings of inferiority”, not that of “self-pity.” The perception of the paramount role of infantile self-pity in neurosis and homosexuality is indeed new; perhaps strange at first glance. but if thought over and checked against personal observations it proves extremely enlightening
Aardweg, G. (1997). The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-)Therapy for Homosexuality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
It is widely agreed that many factors likely contribute to the formation of male homosexuality. One factor may be the predisposing biological influence of temperament (Byne and Parsons, l993). No scientific evidence, however, shows homosexuality to be directly inherited in the sense that eye color is inherited (Satinover, 1996).
Recent political pressure has resulted in a denial of the importance of the factor most strongly implicated by decades of previous clinical research–developmental factors, particularly the influence of parents. A review of the literature on male homosexuality reveals extensive reference to the prehomosexual boy’s relational problems with both parents (West 1959, Socarides 1978, Evans 1969); among some researchers, the father-son relationship has been particularly implicated (Bieber et al 1962, Moberly 1983).
One psychoanalytic hypothesis for the connection between poor early father-son relationship and homosexuality is that during the critical gender-identity phase of development, the boy perceives the father as rejecting. As a result, he grows up failing to fully identify with his father and the masculinity he represents.
Nonmasculine or feminine behavior in boyhood has been repeatedly shown to be correlated with later homosexuality (Green, l987, Zuger, l988); taken together with related factors–particularly the often-reported alienation from same-sex peers and poor relationship with father–this suggests a failure to fully gender-identify. In its more extreme form, this same syndrome (usually resulting in homosexuality) is diagnosed as Childhood Gender-Identity Deficit (Zucker and Bradley, 1996).
One likely cause for “failure to identify” is a narcissistic injury inflicted by the father onto the son (who is usually temperamentally sensitive) during the preoedipal stage of the boy’s development. This hurt appears to have been inflicted during the critical gender-identity phase when the boy must undertake the task of assuming a masculine identification. The hurt manifests itself as a defensive detachment from masculinity in the self, and in others. As an adult, the homosexual is often characterized by this complex which takes the form of “the hurt little boy” (Nicolosi, 1991).
During the course of my treatment of ego-dystonic male homosexuals, I have sometimes requested that fathers participate in their sons’ treatment. Thus I have been able to familiarize myself with some of the fathers’ most common personality traits. This discussion attempts to identify some clinical features common to those fathers of homosexuals.
For this report, I have focused on sixteen fathers who I consider typical in my practice–twelve fathers of homosexual sons (mid-teens to early 30′s), and four fathers of young, gender-disturbed, evidently prehomosexual boys (4- to 7- year-olds). The vast majority of these fathers appeared to be psychologically normal and, also like most fathers, well-intentioned with regard to their sons; in only one case was the father seriously disturbed, inflicting significant emotional cruelty upon his son.
However as a group, these fathers were characterized by the inability to counter their sons’ defensive detachment from them. They felt helpless to attract the boy into their own masculine sphere.
As a whole, these fathers could be characterized as emotionally avoidant. Exploration of their histories revealed that they had typically had poor relationships with their own fathers. They tended to defer to their wives in emotional matters and appeared particularly dependent on them to be their guides, interpreters and spokespersons.
While these men expressed sincere hope that their sons would transition to heterosexuality, nevertheless they proved incapable of living up to a long-term commitment to help them toward that goal. In his first conjoint session, one father cried openly as his 15-year-old son expressed his deep disappointment with him; yet for months afterward, he would drive his son to his appointment without saying a word to him in the car.
Further, while they often appeared to be gregarious and popular, these fathers tended not to have significant male friendships. The extent to which they lacked the ability for male emotional encounter was too consistent and pronounced to be dismissed as simply “typical of the American male.” Rather, my clinical impression of these fathers as a group was that there existed some significant limitation in their ability to engage emotionally with males.
From their sons’ earliest years, these fathers showed a considerable variation in their ability to recognize and respond to the boys’ emotional withdrawal from them. Some naively reported their perception of having had a “great” relationship with their sons, while their sons themselves described the relationship as having been “terrible.” Approximately half the fathers, however, sadly admitted that the relationship was always poor and, in retrospect, perceived their sons as rejecting them from early childhood. Why their sons rejected them remained for most fathers a mystery, and they could only express a helpless sense of resignation and confusion. When pushed, these men would go further to express hurt and deep sadness. Ironically, these sentiments–helplessness, hurt and confusion–seemed to be mutual; they are the same expressed by my clients in describing their own feelings in the relationship with their fathers.
The trait common to fathers of homosexuals seemed to be an incapacity to summon the ability to correct relational problems with their sons. All the men reported feeling “stuck” and helpless in the face of their sons’ indifference or explicit rejection of them. Rather than actively extending themselves, they seemed characteristically inclined to retreat, avoid and feel hurt. Preoccupied with self-protection and unwilling to risk the vulnerability required to give to their sons, they were unable to close the emotional breach. Some showed narcissistic personality features. Some fathers were severe and capable of harsh criticism; some were brittle and rigid; overall, most were soft, weak and placid, with a characteristic emotional inadequacy. The term that comes to mind is the classic psycholanalytic term “acquiescent” – the acquiescent father.
Homosexuality is almost certainly due to multiple factors and cannot be reduced soley to a faulty father-son relationship. Fathers of homosexual sons are usually also fathers of heterosexual sons–so the personality of the father is clearly not the sole cause of homosexuality. Other factors I have seen in the development of homosexuality include a hostile, feared older brother; a mother who is a very warm and attractive personality and proves more appealing to the boy than an emotionally removed father; a mother who is actively disdainful of masculinity; childhood seduction by another male; peer labelling of the boy due to poor athletic ability or timidity; in recent years, cultural factors encouraging a confused and uncertain youngster into an embracing gay community; and in the boy himself, a particularly sensitive, relatively fragile, often passive disposition.
At the same time, we cannot ignore the striking commonality of these fathers’ personalities.
In two cases, the fathers were very involved and deeply committed to the treatment of their sons, but conceded that they were not emotionally present during their sons’ early years. In both cases it was not personality, but circumstance that caused the fathers’ emotional distance. In one case the father was a surgeon from New Jersey who reported atteding medical school while trying to provide financial support for his young family of three children. The second father, an auto mechanic from Arizona, reported that when he was only 21 years old, he was forced to marry the boy’s mother because she was pregnant. He admitted never loving the boy’s mother, having been physically absent from the home, and essentially having abandoned both mother and boy. Both fathers, now more mature and committed to re-establishing contact with their sons, participated enthusiastically in their therapy. But in both cases, the sons had, by then, become resistant to establishing an emotional connection with their fathers.
Attempt at Therapeutic Dialogue.
My overall impression of fathers in conjoint sessions was of a sense of helplessness, discomfort and awkwardness when required to directly interact with their sons.
These men tended not to trust psychological concepts and communication techniques and often seemed confused and easily overwhelmed with the challenge to dialogue in depth. Instructions which I offered during consultation, when followed, were followed literally, mechanically and without spontaneity. A mutual antipathy, a stubborn resistance and a deep grievance on the part of both fathers and sons was clearly observable. At times I felt myself placed in the position of “mother interpreter,” a role encouraged by fathers and at times by sons. As “mother interpreter,” I found myself inferring feeling and intent from the father’s fragmented phrases and conveying that fuller meaning to the son, and vice versa from son to father.
Some fathers expressed concern with “saying the wrong thing,” while others seemed paralyzed by fear. During dialogue, fathers demonstrated great difficulty in getting past their own self-consciousness and their own reactions to what their sons were saying. This limited their empathetic attunement to the therapeutic situation, and to their sons’ position and feelings.
As their sons spoke to them, these fathers seemed blocked and unable to respond. Often they could only respond by saying that they were “too confused,” “too hurt,” or “too frustrated” to dialogue. One father said he was “too angry” to attend the sessions of his teenage son–a message conveyed to me by the mother. At the slightest sign of improvement in the father-son relationship, a few fathers seemed too ready to flee, concluding “Everything is okay – can I go now?”
Before conjoint father-son sessions begin, the client should be helped to gain a clear sense of what he wants from his father. To simply expose the father to a list of complaints is of no value. He should also decide on a clear, constructive way to ask for this. Such preparation shifts the son from a position of helpless complaining, to staying centered on his genuine needs and the effective expression of them.
The Deadly Dilemma.
Eventually, within the course of conjoint sessions a particular point will be reached which I call “the deadly dilemma.” This deadlock in dialogue–which seems to duplicate the earliest father-son rupture–occurs in two phases as follows:
Phase 1: With the therapist’s assistance, the son expresses his needs and wants to his father. Hearing his son, the father becomes emotionally affected, so much so that he cannot respond to his son’s disclosure. He is overwhelmed by his own reactions, becoming so “angered,” “hurt,” “upset,” or “confused” that he cannot attend to his son’s needs. Blocked by his own internal reactions, he is unable to give what his son asks of him.
Phase 2: In turn, the son is unable to tolerate his father’s insular emotional reaction in place of the affirmative response he seeks from him. To accept his father’s non-responses, the son feels he must abandon the needs he has expressed. The only recourse for the son is to retreat again to the defensive distancing which is already at the core of the father-son relationship. The son cannot empathize with the father’s non-responsiveness because to do so is painfully reminiscent of childhood patterns that are associated with his own deep hurt and anger: namely the imperative, “My father’s needs must always come before mine.” The son’s hurt and anger is in reaction to what appears to him to be “just more lame excuses” for Dad’s inability to give the attention, affection or approval he has so long desired from him. Indeed, to the son this seems like Dad’s old ploy, with all the associated historical pain.
This deadly dilemma originated, I believe, during the preverbal level of infancy. As one father’s recollections confirmed, “My son would never look at me. I would hold his face with my hands and force him to look at me, but he would always avert his eyes.” Other men have described an “unnatural indifference” to their fathers during their growing-up years.
During the course of therapy with these fathers, I began to see the deep hurt in them–a hurt that came from their sons’ indifference to their attempts (however meager) to improve the relationship.
Reflecting on his now-elderly father, one client sadly recalled:
I feel sorry for my father. He always had a certain insensitivity, an emotional incompetence. Many of the interactions at home simply went over his head. He was dense, inadequate. I feel a pity for him.
These fathers appeared unwilling or unable to be open and vulnerable to their sons; unable to reach out, to hear their sons’ pain and anger with respect to them, and unable to respond honestly. Their emotional availability was blocked and they were unable to turn the relational problem around. Rather they remained removed, seemingly dispassionate and helpless.
In conjoint sessions, none of the fathers were capable of taking the lead in dialogue. When dialogue became stagnant, they were unable to initiate communication. I believe the consistent inability of these fathers to get past their own blocks and reach out to their sons played a significant role in these boys’ inability to move forward into full, normal masculine identification and heterosexuality.
Bieber, I. et al (1962) Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals. New York: Basic Books.
Byne, W. and Parsons, B., “Human sexual orientation: the biologic theories reappraised,” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 50:228-239, March l993.
Evans, R. (1969). Childhood parental relationships of homosexual men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 33:129-135.
Green, Richard (l987) “The Sissy Boy Syndrome” and the Development of Homosexuality. New Haven, Ct.: Yale U. Press.
Moberly, Elizabeth (1983) Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic. Greenwood, S.C.: Attic Press.
Nicolosi, Joseph (l991) Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality; A New Clinical Approach. Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1991.
Satinover, J. (1996). Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Socarides, Charles (1978). Homosexuality. New York: Jason Aronson.
West, D.J. (1959). Parental figures in the genesis of male homosexuality. International Journal of Social Psychiatry 5:85-97.
Zucker, K. and Bradley, S. (1995) Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents. N.Y.: The Guilford Press.
Zuger, Bernard (l988) Is Early Effeminate Behavior in Boys Early Homosexuality? Comprehensive Psychiatry, vol. 29, no. 5 (September/October) p. 509-519.
Nicolosi, J. (8 February 2008). Fathers of Male Homosexuals: A Collective Clinical Profile., from http://www.narth.com/docs/fathers.html
A recently completed doctoral dissertation by Gregory Dickson, Ph.D. found statistically significant differences between the childhood recollections of heterosexual and homosexual men. The dissertation was entitled, “An Empirical Study of the Mother-Son Dyad in Relation to the Development of Adult Male Homosexuality: An Object Relations Perspective.”
A total of 135 men were surveyed–57 egodystonic homosexuals; 34 egosyntonic homosexuals; and 44 heterosexuals from various parts of the U.S. Utilizing the ParentChild Relations Questionnaire (PCR-II; Siegelman & Roe, 1979), the study found that heterosexual males recalled a much better relationship with their mothers. These men reported a significantly more loving, less demanding, and less rejecting mother than did homosexual males.
The study further found that male homosexuals reported significantly higher levels of current depression, as well as significantly higher levels of childhood sexual abuse than their heterosexual peers.
Homosexual Men Experienced Their Mothers More Negatively
The study’s results supported previously published empirical research that homosexuals and heterosexuals have significantly different recollections of their childhood motherson relationships.
Going beyond the scope of previous research, the study found that egodystonic (dissatisfied with their orientation) homosexual males recalled having experienced a more demanding mother than egosyntonic (satisfied) homosexual men. Otherwise, no significant differences in the recollection of the childhood motherson relationships were found between the two subgroups of homosexual men.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Dickson stated, “A cursory review of research to date suggests a lack of uniform findings on the role of the mother-son relationship in the development of male homosexuality. Some authors have found a close, overly protective mother, while others have found the opposite a less loving, more demanding, and more rejecting mother. While these results are seemingly contradictory, further investigation reveals an underlying consistency, in that the homosexual male has repeatedly reported a significantly different relationship with his mother than that reported by his heterosexual peers. Whether he reported her as overly close or distant, a negative relational pattern is apparent.”
He added, “It is reasonable to assume that either type of relationship (overly close or distant) may negatively impact the developing boy’s ability to complete the necessary steps leading toward the accomplishment of the developmental tasks of individuation and separation. The overly close and binding relationship with the mother may prevent the young boy from “abandoning” her in order to join his father and his male peers. Likewise, the overly distant relationship may not allow him to feel secure enough in the mother’s love to leave it in order to explore peer relationships with other boys.”
The Homosexual Male Often Had to “Choose” One Parent Over Another
Findings of this study and of Dickson (1996) also support findings in the literature which suggest that the adult male homosexual has experienced a greater dissimilarity of relationships between his mother and father during his developmental years than did his heterosexual peers. The current study drew upon previous literature regarding the healthy early triangulation in which the boy is able to develop both a sense of connectedness to, and distance from, both parents. “A lack of this healthy triangulation,” stated Dr. Dickson, “may result in the developing boy finding himself ‘stuck’ between parents. He must choose one parent over the other. It appears that this phenomenon is present and much more extreme in homosexual development.”
While both heterosexual and homosexual groups reported a significantly higher sense of attachment to mother and a higher sense of love from mother, the study found that the dissimilarity experienced between parents among the two groups of men is most apparent in the areas of love, demand, and rejection. Dr. Dickson stated, “A further complicating factor appears in that while the mother-son relationship demonstrates a negative relational pattern, in comparison to the father-son relationship, the homosexual son feels, at the same time, relatively closer to mother than to father. In other words, compared to the father, the child may consciously feel closer to the mother, yet unconsciously feel unsafe with her. That unsafe sense may be triggered by either a closebinding impingement and/or a lessloving distance.“
He continued, “It appears the process of growing into a mature masculine identity may be impeded by any of these factors including the mother-son relationship, the fatherson relationship, the dissimilarity between the mother and father relationship, and/or a combination thereofand this conscious and unconscious organization may have resulted in the many seemingly contradictory retrospective findings reported in the literature.”
Gender-Identity Development is Thwarted by an Unbalanced Parent-Child Relational Pattern
These findings regarding the mother-son relationship, combined with those found by Dickson (1996) regarding the father-son relationship with the same group of participants are consistent with the object-relations theory of an unhealthy and unbalanced triangular parent-child relational pattern that may thwart the boy’s gender and identity development from both the mother’s and the father’s side, hindering the accomplishment of developmental tasks necessary in order to attain and sustain adult heterosexual relationships.
Furthermore, the study sheds light on the potential relationship of a history of sexual abuse and the development of adult male homosexuality. An alarming 49% of homosexual surveyed, compared to less than 2% of heterosexuals, reported sexual abuse.
Dr. Dickson also found results suggesting that homosexual men are significantly more depressed than heterosexual men. However, his findings do not support the experience of sexual abuse alone as an adequate explanation for the homosexuals’ level of current depression. Significant differences in the depression scores remained in the comparison of nonsexually abused homosexual and heterosexual participants for current levels of depression.
Childhood Sexual Abuse is Correlated with Male Homosexuality
Results of this study underscore the importance of a need for increased understanding of the effects of sexual abuse in the development of adult male homosexuality. Dr. Dickson’s findings are congruent with those of Finkelhor (1984) which found that boys victimized by older men were four times more likely to be currently involved in homosexuality than were nonvictims. All of the respondents in Dr. Dickson’s study reported their molestation as having occurred by a male perpetrator; none reported female abusers. This finding, perhaps one of the most significant of Dr. Dickson’s study, suggests that sexual abuse should be considered in evaluating etiologic factors contributing to the development of adult male homosexuality. He Dickson stated, “An experience of sexual abuse could possibly contribute to the sexualizing of the unmet needs for male affection, attention, and connection.”
The study’s findings do not support the experience of sexual abuse as an adequate explanation of the difference in the way adult males experienced their mothers during childhood. The differences in the recollection of parentchild relations reported by the two groups remained significant following the removal of all sexual abuse cases. Nonsexually abused homosexual males continued to report having a less loving, more demanding, and more rejecting mother than nonsexually abused heterosexuals.
The Relationally Deficient Child Is Vulnerable to Sexual Abuse
Commenting on the abuse factor, Dr. Dickson stated, “It is possible that the male child who experiences the negative relational pattern with his mother along with the less present and negatively perceived father becomes more susceptible to the perpetrator’s advances. Given the relational deficits experienced by the male child, it is also possible that the molestation, as devastating as it may have been emotionally, simultaneously may be experienced by some of the boys as their first form of adult male affection, as well as something relational that is not shared in common with his mother. The abuse could, theoretically, be perceived by the boy as a facilitation of some form of separationindividuation between himself and mother.”
Dr. Dickson continued, “It is also reasonable to assume that the sense of shame, secrecy, violation and anger which may result from childhood sexual abuse contributes to the development of a distorted paradigm through which the child views subsequent relationships with self and others. The duty of the parent to protect the child from all harm, as understood by the child, may be perceived as having been forsaken. If the abuse is left unresolved, subsequent parental behaviors may be experienced in a more negative way by the child and later, the adult. Additionally, the established negative relational pattern present in the family may impede the child’s ability to look to his parents for assistance in resolving the pain resulting from the molestation.”
The multifaceted approach of Dr. Dickson’s study helps to clarify some of the previous literature’s apparent contradictions about potential contributing factors in the development of male homosexuality. His study underscores the significance of the influence of multiple environmental factors in the development of adult male homosexuality. It further emphasizes the complex, often subliminal, yet powerful forces of not only the childhood mother-son and father-son relationships, but the childhood experience of sexual abuse as all of these factors relate to the development of the child’s sense of self, including gender identification and future relational choices.
Pop culture and political rhetoric suggest that it is society’s lack of acceptance which is solely responsible for pathology associated with homosexuality. Such a simplistic conclusion ignores homosexuals’ repeated reports in psychology literature of conflicted parental relationships, as well as other important issues such as sexual abuse.
Dr. Dickson stated, “The current study, in concert with past literature, suggests that the issues surrounding committed adult homosexual identification may be more core structural and relational, rather than sexual in nature.”
He concluded, “Recent investigation of homosexuality has been hindered by the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations’ philosophical shift, which fails to consider the role of environmental factors in the development of male homosexuality. The clearly complex nature of the issue should not be oversimplified, nor should scientific exploration be limited by politics.”
Copies of the complete dissertation, “An Empirical Study of the MotherSon Dyad in Relation to the Development of Adult Male Homosexuality” An Object Relations Perspective,” by Gregory L. Dickson, Ph.D., are available through UMI, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346, or by telephone at 800-521-3042.
NARTH. (8 February 2008). Mothers of Male Homosexuals: A Study., from http://www.narth.com/docs/mothersof.html