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Pubertal Onset and Sexual Orientation in an Adolescent National Probability Sample

Using 6-year longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and multiple measures of puberty as it occurs and of sexual orientation (romantic attraction, sexual identity), the present study attempted to replicate previous research which reported that homosexuals and heterosexuals differed in their age of pubertal onset. The study hypotheses were not confirmed for either males or females: on most pubertal measures, same-sex oriented groupings did not differ from heterosexuals. The only significant findings regarding homosexual males indicated that they were more likely to report having a later rather than an earlier onset of puberty, and the significant findings regarding homosexual females were contradictory—they tended to have an earlier onset of puberty. These findings are attributed to methodological improvements in the present study that reduced retrospective bias, used multiple indicators of sexual orientation and puberty timing, and assessed less eroticized measures of puberty.

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This research used data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516-2524 (

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Correspondence to Ritch C. Savin-Williams Ph.D..

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Savin-Williams, R.C., Ream, G.L. Pubertal Onset and Sexual Orientation in an Adolescent National Probability Sample. Arch Sex Behav 35, 279–286 (2006).

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  • puberty
  • sexual orientation
  • adolescence
  • gay