Stability and Change in Sexual Orientation Identity Over a 10-Year Period in Adulthood
- 1.8k Downloads
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.
KeywordsSexual orientation Sexual identity Heterosexuality Homosexuality Bisexuality
- Brim, O. G., Baltes, P. B., Bumpass, L. L., Cleary, P. D., Featherman, D. L., Hazzard, W. R., et al. (1996). National survey of midlife development in the United States (MIDUS), 1995–1996. Boston: Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School.Google Scholar
- Jaccard, J. (2001). Interaction effects in logistic regression. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Laumann, E., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- LeVay, S. (2010). Gay, straight, and the reason why: The science of sexual orientation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- LeVay, S., & Valente, S. M. (2006). Human sexuality (2nd ed.). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.Google Scholar
- Mosher, W. D., Chandra, A., & Jones, J. (2005). Sexual behavior and selected health measures: Men and women 15–44 years of age, United States, 2002. Advance Data (CDC), 362. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad362.pdf. Accessed October 28, 2010.
- Preacher, K. J. (2001, April). Calculation for the chi-square test: An interactive calculation tool for chi-square tests of goodness of fit and independence [Computer software]. Available from http://quantpsy.org.
- Preacher, K. J., & Biggs, N. E. (2001, May). Calculation for Fisher’s Exact Test: An interactive calculation tool for Fisher’s exact probability test for 2 × 2 tables [Computer software]. Available from http://quantpsy.org.
- Ryff, C., Almeida, D. M., Ayanian, J. S., Carr, D. S., Cleary, P. D., Coe, C., et al. (2006). Midlife development in the United States (MIDUS II), 2004–2006. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, Survey Center.Google Scholar
- Savin-Williams, R. C. (2009). How many gays are there? It depends. In D. A. Hope (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation (Vol. 54): Contemporary perspectives on lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities (pp. 5–41). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Smith, T. W. (1992). A methodological analysis of the sexual behavior questions on the General Social Surveys. Journal of Official Statistics, 8, 309–325.Google Scholar
- Smith, D. M., & Gates, G. J. (2001). Gay and lesbian families in the United States: Same-sex unmarried partner households. Washington, DC: Human Rights Campaign.Google Scholar
- Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., & Pryor, D. W. (1994). Dual attraction: Understanding bisexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Yates, F. (1934). Contingency table involving small numbers and the χ2 test. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 1(Suppl.), 217–235.Google Scholar