Stability and Change in Same-Sex Attraction, Experience, and Identity by Sex and Age in a New Zealand Birth Cohort
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Gaps remain in knowledge of changes in sexual orientation past adolescence and early adulthood. A longitudinal study of a New Zealand birth cohort was used to examine differences by age and sex in change in sexual attraction between 21 (1993/1994) and 38 years (2010/2011), sexual experiences between 26 and 38 years, and sexual identity between 32 and 38 years. Any same-sex attraction was significantly more common among women than men at all ages. Among women, any same-sex attraction increased up to age 26 (from 8.8 to 16.6 %), then decreased slightly by age 38 (12.0 %); among men, prevalence was significantly higher at age 38 (6.5 %) than 21 (4.2 %), but not in the intermediate assessments. It is likely that the social environment becoming more tolerant was responsible for some of the changes. Same-sex attraction was much more common than same-sex experiences or a same-sex identity, especially among women, with no major sex differences in these latter dimensions. Women exhibited much greater change in sexual attraction between assessments than men; for change in experiences and identity, sex differences were less marked and not statistically confirmed. Changes in the respective dimensions appeared more likely among those initially with mixed attraction and experiences, and among those initially identifying as bisexual, but this did not account for the sex difference in likelihood of change. These results provide contemporary information about the extent and variation of reported sexual attraction, experiences, and identity that we show continues across early and mid-adulthood.
KeywordsSexual orientation Sexual identity Longitudinal study Birth cohort
The Health Research Council of New Zealand funded this study. The authors would like to thank the study members and their families for their long term involvement in the study, the director Professor Richie Poulton, and the staff of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study involved in the collection of the data and other aspects of the study. They would also like to acknowledge valuable comments from Drs. Peter Saxton and Julia Fitzjohn.
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