, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 641-648
Date: 17 May 2011

Stability and Change in Sexual Orientation Identity Over a 10-Year Period in Adulthood

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Abstract

We examined reports of sexual orientation identity stability and change over a 10-year period drawing on data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS I and II) and tested for three patterns: (1) heterosexual stability, (2) female sexual fluidity, and (3) bisexual fluidity. Fifty-four percent of the 2,560 participants were female and the average age was approximately 47 years. At Wave 1, 2,494 (97.42%) reported a heterosexual identity, 32 (1.25%) a homosexual identity, and 34 (1.33%) a bisexual identity and somewhat more than 2% reported a different sexual orientation identity at Wave 2. Although some support for each hypothesis was found, initial sexual orientation identity interacted with gender to predict a more complex pattern. For the sample as a whole, heterosexuality was the most stable identity. For women, bisexuality and homosexuality were equally unstable and significantly less stable than heterosexuality, suggesting that sexual orientation identity fluidity is a pattern that applies more to sexual minority women than heterosexual women. For men, heterosexuality and homosexuality were both relatively stable compared to bisexuality, which stood out as a particularly unstable identity. This pattern of results was consistent with previous findings and helps to address methodological limitations of earlier research by showing the characteristics of a population-based sample of heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual identified men and women over time.