Theories on the origin and development of homosexual orientation can be categorized into four groups: psychoanalytic, biological, social learning, and sociobiological theories. Psychoanalytic theories are based on the Freudian model of psychosexual stages of development, developed by Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. According to this model, every child goes through several stages, including the "phallic stage," during which he or she learns to identify with his or her same-sex parent. For boys, this is supposed to be particularly difficult, as it requires redefining the strong bond that they have had with their mother since birth. According to Freudian theorists, homosexuality is an outcome of the failure to resolve this developmental crisis: If a boy's father is absent or "weak" and his mother is domineering or overpro-tective, the boy may never come to identify with his father; for a girl, having a "cold" or rejecting mother could prevent her from identifying with the female role.
Research has found that homosexuals are, in fact, more likely to feel an inability to relate to their same-sex parent than are heterosexuals and to report that the same-sex parent was "cold" or "distant" during their childhood. Some studies have suggested, however, that this psychological distance between parent and offspring is found mostly in families with children who show cross-gender behaviors when very young and that the distancing is more likely to be a result of preexisting differences in the child than a cause of later differences.
Biological theories have suggested that homosexuality is genetic, a result of hormone levels different from those found in heterosexuals, or is a result of prenatal maternal effects on the developing fetus. Although there may be genes that predispose a person to become homosexual under certain circumstances, no specific genes for homosexuality have been identified. Similarly, there are no consistent differences between levels of hormones in homosexual and heterosexual adults. The possibility remains that subtle fluctuations of hormones during critical periods of fetal development may influence brain structures which regulate sexual arousal and attraction.
Social-learning models suggest that homosexual orientation develops as a response to pleasurable homosexual experiences during childhood and adolescence, perhaps coupled with unpleasant heterosexual experiences. Many boys have homosexual experiences as part of their normal sexual experimentation while growing up. According to the model, some boys will find these experiences more pleasurable or successful than their experiments with heterosexuality and will continue to seek homosexual interactions. Why only certain boys find their homosexual experiences more pleasurable than their heterosexual experiences could be related to a variety of factors, including the child's age, family dynamics, social skills, and personality. Young girls are less likely to have early homosexual experiences but may be "turned off' from heterosexuality by experiences such as rape, abuse, or assault.
Sociobiological models are all based on the assumption that common behaviors must have evolved because they were somehow beneficial, or related to something beneficial, which helped the individuals who performed them to pass their genes to the next generation. From this perspective, homosexuality seems incongruous, but because it is so common, researchers have tried to find out how homosexual behavior might, in fact, increase a person's ability to pass on genes to subsequent generations. Theorists have come up with three possible explanations—the parental manipulation model, the kin selection model, and the by-product model.
The parental manipulation model suggests that homosexuals do not directly pass on more of their genes than heterosexuals but that their parents do. According to this model, parents subconsciously manipulate their child's development to make him or her less likely to start a family; in this way, the adult child is able to contribute time, energy, and income to brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. In the end, the parents have "sacrificed" one child's reproduction in exchange for more grandchildren—or, at least, for more indulged, more evolutionarily competitive grandchildren.
The kin selection model is similar, but in it, the homosexual individual is not manipulated but sacrifices his or her own reproduction willingly (although subconsciously) in exchange for more nieces and nephews (that is, more relatives' genes in subsequent generations). According to this model, individuals who are willing to make this sacrifice (no matter how subconscious) are either those who are not likely to be very successful in heterosex ual interactions (and are thus not actually making much of a sacrifice) or those who have a particular attribute that makes them especially good at helping their families. As an analogy, theorists point out how, through much of human history, reproductive sacrifice in the form ofjoining a religious order often provided income, protection, or status for other family members.
The by-product model suggests that homosexuality is an inevitable outcome of evolved sex differences. According to this model, the facts that, overall, men have a higher sex drive than women and that, historically, many societies have allowed polygyny (where one man has more than one wife) will result in many unmated males who still have an urge to satisfy their high sex drive. Thus, men will become (or will at least act) homosexual when male partners are easier to find than female partners. This model is the one most likely to explain "facultative homosexuality," that is, homosexual behavior by people who consider themselves basically heterosexual.
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