Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 413–422

The Dubious Assessment of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Adolescents of Add Health

Invited Essay

Abstract

In this essay, we argue that researchers who base their investigations of nonheterosexuality derived from reports of romantic attractions of adolescent participants from Wave 1 of Add Health must account for their disappearance in future waves of data collection. The high prevalence of Wave 1 youth with either both-sex or same-sex romantic attractions was initially striking and unexpected. Subsequent data from Add Health indicated that this prevalence sharply declined over time such that over 70 % of these Wave 1 adolescents identified as exclusively heterosexual as Wave 4 young adults. Three explanations are proposed to account for the high prevalence rate and the temporal inconsistency: (1) gay adolescents going into the closet during their young adult years; (2) confusion regarding the use and meaning of romantic attraction as a proxy for sexual orientation; and (3) the existence of mischievous adolescents who played a “jokester” role by reporting same-sex attraction when none was present. Relying on Add Health data, we dismissed the first explanation as highly unlikely and found support for the other two. Importantly, these “dubious” gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents may have led researchers to erroneously conclude from the data that sexual-minority youth are more problematic than heterosexual youth in terms of physical, mental, and social health.

Keywords

Add Health Sexual orientation Gay Lesbian Bisexual Adolescents 

References

  1. Austin, S. B., Ziyadeh, N., Fisher, L. B., Kahn, J. A., Colditz, G. A., & Frazier, A. L. (2004). Sexual orientation and tobacco use in a cohort study of US adolescent girls and boys. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 158, 310–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bailey, J. M., Dunne, M. P., & Martin, N. G. (2000). Genetic and environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 524–536. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.78.3.524.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bailey, J. M., & Zucker, K. J. (1995). Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review. Developmental Psychology, 31, 43–55. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.31.1.43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chivers, M. L., Seto, M. C., Lalumiere, M. L., Laan, E., & Grimbos, T. (2010). Agreement of self-reported and genital measures of sexual arousal in men and women: A meta-analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 5–56. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9556-9.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cornell, D., Klein, J., Konold, T., & Huang, F. (2012). Effects of validity screening items on adolescent survey data. Psychological Assessment, 24, 21–35. doi:10.1037/a0024824.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Diamond, L. M. (2008). Sexual fluidity: Understanding women’s love and desire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Fan, X., Miller, B. C., Park, K. E., Winward, B. W., Christensen, M., Grotevant, H. D., et al. (2006). An exploratory study about inaccuracy and invalidity in adolescent self-report surveys. Field Methods, 18, 223–244. doi:10.1177/152822X06289161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Harris, K. M. (2009). The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), Waves I & II, 1994–1996; Wave III, 2001–2002; Wave IV, 2007–2009. Chapel Hill, NC: Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  9. Lippa, R. A. (2000). Gender-related traits in gay men, lesbian women, and heterosexual men and women: The virtual identity of homosexual-heterosexual diagnosticity and gender diagnosticity. Journal of Personality, 68, 899–926. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.00120.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Pew Research Center. (2013). A survey of LGBT Americans: Attitudes, experiences and values in changing times. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://pewresearch.org/lgbt.
  11. Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2012a). The eyes have it: Sex and sexual orientation differences in pupil dilation patterns. PLoS ONE, 7(8), e40256. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040256.
  12. Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2012b). Gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, and psychological well-being. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 611–621. doi:10.1007/s10508-011-9738-0.Google Scholar
  13. Robinson, J. P., & Espelage, D. L. (2011). Inequities in educational and psychological outcomes between LGBTQ and straight students in middle and high school. Educational Researcher, 40, 315–330. doi:10.3102/0013189X11422112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Russell, S. T., Franz, B. T., & Driscoll, A. K. (2001). Same-sex romantic attraction and experiences of violence in adolescence. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 903–906.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Russell, S. T., & Joyner, K. (2001). Adolescent sexual orientation and suicide risk: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 1276–1281.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Russell, S. T., & Seif, H. (2010). Bisexual female adolescents: A critical analysis of past research, and results from a national survey. Journal of Bisexuality, 10, 492–509. doi:10.1080/15299716.2010.521065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Savin-Williams, R. C. (2005). The new gay teenager. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Savin-Williams, R. C., Cohen, K. M., Joyner, K., & Rieger, G. (2010). Depressive symptoms among same-sex oriented young men: Importance of reference group [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1213–1215. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9658-4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Savin-Williams, R. C., Joyner, K., & Rieger, G. (2012). Prevalence and stability of self-reported sexual orientation identity during young adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 103–110. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9913-y.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Ream, G. L. (2006). Pubertal onset and sexual orientation in an adolescent national probability sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 279–286.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Ream, G. L. (2007). Prevalence and stability of sexual orientation components during adolescence and young adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 385–394. doi:10.1007/s10508-006-9088-5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Vrangalova, Z. (2013). Mostly heterosexual as a distinct sexual orientation group: A systematic review of the empirical evidence. Developmental Review, 33, 58–88. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2013.01.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Schwartz, G., Kim, R. M., Kolundzija, A. B., Rieger, G., & Sanders, A. (2010). Biodemographic and physical correlates of sexual orientation in men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 93–109.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Tolman, D. L., & McClelland, S. I. (2011). Normative sexuality development in adolescence: A decade in review, 2000-2009. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 242–255. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00726.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Udry, J. R. (1993). The politics of sex research. Journal of Sex Research, 30, 103–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Udry, J. R., & Chantala, K. (2005). Risk factors differ according to same-sex and opposite-sex interest. Journal of Biosocial Science, 37, 481–497.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Ueno, K. (2005). Sexual orientation and psychological distress in adolescence: Examining interpersonal stressors and social support processes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 258–277. doi:10.1177/019027250506800305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Zipp, J. F. (2011). Sport and sexuality: Athletic participation by sexual minority and sexual majority adolescents in the U.S. Sex Roles, 64, 19–31. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9865-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human DevelopmentCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

Personalised recommendations