Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 277–293

A test of the maternal stress theory of human male homosexuality

  • J. Michael Bailey
  • Lee Willerman
  • Carlton Parks

DOI: 10.1007/BF01541847

Cite this article as:
Bailey, J.M., Willerman, L. & Parks, C. Arch Sex Behav (1991) 20: 277. doi:10.1007/BF01541847


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 

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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