Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 63–74 | Cite as

Does Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Neglect in Childhood Increase the Likelihood of Same-sex Sexual Relationships and Cohabitation? A Prospective 30-year Follow-up

  • Helen W. WilsonEmail author
  • Cathy Spatz Widom
Original Paper


Existing cross-sectional research suggests associations between physical and sexual abuse in childhood and same-sex sexual orientation in adulthood. This study prospectively examined whether abuse and/or neglect in childhood were associated with increased likelihood of same-sex partnerships in adulthood. The sample included physically abused (N = 85), sexually abused (N = 72), and neglected (N = 429) children (ages 0–11) with documented cases during 1967–1971 who were matched with non-maltreated children (N = 415) and followed into adulthood. At approximately age 40, participants (483 women and 461 men) were asked about romantic cohabitation and sexual partners, in the context of in-person interviews covering a range of topics. Group (abuse/neglect versus control) differences were assessed with cross-tabulations and logistic regression. A total of 8% of the overall sample reported any same-sex relationship (cohabitation or sexual partners). Childhood physical abuse and neglect were not significantly associated with same-sex cohabitation or sexual partners. Individuals with documented histories of childhood sexual abuse were significantly more likely than controls to report ever having had same-sex sexual partners (OR = 2.81, 95% CI = 1.16–6.80, p ≤ .05); however, only men with histories of childhood sexual abuse were significantly more likely than controls to report same-sex sexual partners (OR = 6.75, 95% CI = 1.53–29.86, p ≤ .01). These prospective findings provide tentative evidence of a link between childhood sexual abuse and same-sex sexual partnerships among men, although further research is needed to explore this relationship and to examine potential underlying mechanisms.


Childhood sexual abuse Childhood physical abuse Childhood neglect Sexual orientation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRosalind Franklin University of Medicine and ScienceNorth ChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal JusticeThe City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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