Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 277–293 | Cite as

A test of the maternal stress theory of human male homosexuality

  • J. Michael Bailey
  • Lee Willerman
  • Carlton Parks


Both the neurohormonal theory of sexual orientation and previous research on humans and animals suggest that male homosexuality may arise from prenatal stress during the brain's sexual differentiation. Stress-proneness and retrospective reports of stress during pregnancy were obtained from mothers of male and female heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals. Each mother also rated pregnancy stress for a heterosexual sibling of the subject. For males, neither between-family nor within-family analyses revealed a maternal stress effect for either sexual orientation or childhood gender nonconformity. However, mothers of effeminate children reported more stress-proneness than other mothers. Male homosexuality nevertheless was strongly familial, suggesting a reconsideration of genetic and familial environmental mechanisms.

Key words

maternal stress sexual orientation etiology homosexuality familiality 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Michael Bailey
    • 1
  • Lee Willerman
    • 2
  • Carlton Parks
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TexasAustinUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyCollege of Holy CrossWorcesterUSA

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