Homosexualitygreenspun.com : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread
Hello! I was wondering if anyone knew where I could find valuable information about the history and evolution psychology has taken on homosexuality. To narrow the topic down further, how our perspectives have changed and the controversies surrounding it. Or has our perspective changed at all? Thank you! -Sarah Ewanchuk
-- Sarah Ewanchuk (email@example.com), February 21, 2005
According to the DSM -- which is a psychiatric document, rather than a psychological one -- homosexuality was regarded as a "disorder" though the 1970s, but was removed from the list in, I believe, the early 1980s.
-- Christopher Green (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 21, 2005.
Hi Sarah, Some people in evolutionary psychology (an old perspective, but relatively new branch of psychology) have taken an interest in better understanding homosexuality. Some preliminary questions that are appropriate to ask are "to what degree is it hereditary?" (still an open question, but based on preliminary research likely to be partly hereditary), "how long has it been common?" (at least during the last few thousand years of recorded history). Then the next question is "what is the function (i.e., how does it aid survival)of homosexuality?" - to either the individual, the individuals relatives, or the group that they live with?". Related to the later question is trying to identify characteristics that might be inherited in homosexuals that differentiate them from heterosexuals, and then determining how the difference might be functional. This may involve, on average, just having a little more or less of a characteristic than heterosexuals. Genes often serve more than one function and a given gene may contribute to sexual orientation and also influence several other traits. While the above discussion is complicated enough, there may be an extra layer of complexity in that environmental contingencies (prenatal as well as postnatal) may interact in significant ways (e.g., environmental events may trigger gene activity). There is a little evidience that extreme stress on a pregnant mother may sometimes influence prenatal development of males in the direction of male homosexuality. I do not know if this example is functional (not everything is), but theoretically a gene expression could be "designed" to go in one direction in one environment and another direction in a different environment. A final layer of complexity to consider is that sometimes evolution may select for variety of group members. For example, it has been hypothesize that a group of people with different sleeping patterns might provide more protection from predators at night by having at least one group member vigilent at almost all times. Could there also be an advantage to having some variety of "sexual orientations" in a group? You also should consider the influence of various cultures on definitions of homosexually, and how we learn to react to homosexuals. Also to be considered are differences in male vs. female homosexuality, as well as trying to explain other "sexual orientations" (e.g., maybe about 1% of healthy young adults report little or no sexual interest of any kind). By now you may get the idea (and be correct) that we have many interesting ideas about homosexuality to persue, but much is still not well understood. This is a politically sensitive topic that has significant implications for individuals and groups, and in my opinion, we should be cautious and courteous in our pursuit of the answers. Since homosexuality is a highly emotional topic, views on the subject (including my own) are highly susceptible to bias. Part of my background is in evolutionary psychology, so this could bias my views on the subject. I hope this helps. Paul
-- Paul Kleinginna (email@example.com), February 23, 2005.
Hi Sarah, I thought of another theory of homosexuality. Homosexuality may be a fertility braking mechanism that waxes and wanes in frequency in a population based on the current amount of environmental resources (e.g., famine)or presence of stress (e.g., war). This theory might be tested by monitoring frequency of homosexuality before and after famines or wars. One such analysis was done in Germany after WWII, looking at frequency of male homosexuality in more stressed (e.g., bombed more during WWII) versus less stressed areas of Germany and found the expected difference (higher frequency of male homosexuality in more stressed areas). They were interested in the stress levels of pregnant mothers during the war, since the pregnant mother's high stress levels likely inhibits testosterone levels in male fetuses, which may influence frequency of homosexuality. I wonder if the frequency of people with low sex drive (i.e., that one percent or so of young adults) also be a fertility braking mechanism for a population. These braking mechanisms could be either based on group or individual genetic selection mechanims. An additional and more obvious fertility brake might be changes in cultural values (or practices like more years of formal education for females) toward having more children. For example, in some parts of the world high birth rates are encouraged, while in other areas more moderate rates are encouraged. These cultural differences may also be related to amount of resources, amount of competition from neigbnors, or stress levels. I hope this helps with a difficult and sensitive topic. I think homosexuality may be influenced by several different types of variables, including genetic factors, prenatal environmental variables, and postnatal environmental events. Paul
-- Paul Kleinginna (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 07, 2005.