Lesbianism and Family Breakdown

A fascinating story on the controversial LifeSiteNews website.

The Family Research Council (FRC) released a new analytic report Thursday indicating that women who did not grow up with their biological mother and father are much more likely to engage in homosexual conduct as adults than are women who grew up in an intact family.

“This research further undermines the claim that homosexuality is largely genetic or biological in origin,” stated Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at FRC, and co-author of the study. “It is clear that social factors have a significant impact on whether a woman chooses to engage in homosexual relationships.”

The study was based on 2002 data regarding 7,643 women between the ages of 14 and 44, drawn from the National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The evaluation of the data was conducted by Fagan and D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., from the Department of Sociology at the Catholic University of America.

Women who grew up in households where their biological fathers were absent were found to be three times more likely to have had homosexual partners in the year prior to the survey than were women who grew up with their biological fathers.

“Classical theory and earlier research focused on the important role which attachment to the same sex parent plays in the sexual development of children,” said Fagan. “These data seem to indicate that the father also plays a crucial role in the sexual development of his daughter.

“With a continued breakdown in the family it is reasonable to expect a rise in homosexual behavior among women. Difficulties in the development of sexual identification with the same sex parent will increase where there is a breakdown of attachment between both parents,” concluded Fagan.

The report also examined the correlation between current religious participation and homosexual conduct. Women who never attend religious worship were similarly found more than three times as likely to have homosexual relationships than women who attended worship weekly.

When both factors (childhood family structure and present religious participation) were combined, the study found that only 2.1 percent of women from an intact family who worship weekly had a homosexual partner in the past year, while women from a non-intact family who never attend worship were four and one-half times as likely to have had such a partner (9.5 percent).

Very interesting. This is not actually a new piece of research – the data is drawn from a study published in 2002 and the link to the FRC does not provide any robust analysis of the survey, rather it’s just a selection of pretty graphs.

The real interesting question is whether the family structures themselves lead to homosexual identity. Although the data does seem to imply that there is link, it would be interesting to know why. We also don’t know the sizes of each of the sub-groups and that would affect the reliability of the data. What I found fascinating looking at the limited information available was that there was very little difference in outcome between children of married couples who stayed together and children of unmarried couples who stayed together. Both of these groups then has much lower outcome rates then the single parents and married step-families. What is really intriguing is that co-habiting step families produce higher outcome rates then just a single parent. It would be interesting to break these down again to see whether there were significant differences based on the sex of the parent that the daughter stayed with when a relationship broke down.

I’m not sure we should put much weight on the church attendance figures – the simply fact is that homosexual identified people tend not to go to church as much as other people. It’s not though an issue of causation in the same manner (i.e. we presume that family structure causes homosexual identity (not the other way round), but equally it’s probably homosexual identity that leads to decisions around church attendance.

The Marin Foundation is currently working on a piece of research on Christian religious involvement amongst the LGBT community which I’m very much looking forward to reading.


27 Comments on “Lesbianism and Family Breakdown

  1. The easiest response is to suggest that Lesbianism is indeed genetic. The girls more likely to have homosexual partners logically come from broken homes because of this. They carry the same homosexual gene as their mothers, and therefore their mothers' marriage to a man was doomed to failure from the start.

    • I think you'd have to provide a bit more researched evidence to support that hypothesis. What research are you suggesting supports your position?

  2. I don't have any research, but I can see that Jeff's stance is potentially as logical as the other assumption by the researchers. I came from a family which was perfectly intact. It didn't stop my brain always identifying as lesbian. I had a choice about whether I went with that inclination or not. I didn't. I married a lovely man, as it happens. But it didn't still stop my brain from identifying as lesbian. If all they're doing is identifying choices rather than inclination, does it prove anything at all?

  3. Nurture does have a significant effect! (secular) Studies in Denmark a few years ago showed a very strong influence of living environment – urban dwllers much more likely than rural to enter SS Marriage. There was also a study that showed that lesbianism is measurably related to a poor childhood relationship with the womans mother.

  4. There are many factors. Every possible conclusion would need testing.

    "Of the 15% [I made this up as an illustration] of women who have had a same-sex sexual partner in the last year, two thirds of those from non-church going broken families were willing to say so to a researcher while only one in seven of those from weekly church-going stable families was willing to do so".

    "Of the consistent 12% [again, simply an illustration] of women who are gay, the majority of those for whom the social norm accepts them have had recent same-sex sex, and even one in six of those for whom the social norm is hostile to them have done so".

    My recent post Lesbianism and Family Breakdown

  5. (continued – the provider wouldn't let me post all this as one comment)

    "Those from church-going stable homes are much less likely to have sex with someone other than their husband or wife than those from non-church-going broken homes".

    "Those with a theological disposition to disapprove of same sex partnerships are more likely to believe, publish or blog a non-genetic explanation for the findings in this research than those with a theological disposition to accept same sex partnerships".

    My recent post Lesbianism and Family Breakdown

  6. Peter Mullins points above say it all!
    I read a while back a report on Anglican Mainstream that more people in "gay friendly" countries are gay. Their interpretation seemed to be that a liberal society somehow "causes" homosexuality, they didn't seem to look at the much more likely scenario; that a hostile environment leads to people pretending they are straight!
    My recent post Body and blood

  7. Err, Sue, Peter's points were purey fictitious, were they not?

    The question is not what you, I or anyone else might say but what the facts are. Hence data on legal SSMarriages and orientation in a relatively open and homogeneous country, like Denmark (or New Zealand) is particularly valuable.

    However, I agree that a hostile environment certainly does affect people's self expression regarding sexuality… I suspect this PARTLY explains why people are more "positive" about same sex sexual relationships than they were. You get irrationally vilified, and can even get arrested or sacked, for saying anything less than positive about same-sex sex in new "open" Britain!

    • Interpretation of data isn't a matter of fact or fiction, just interpretation.

      I don't think most people in Britain are frightened by a hostile environment into approving of same sex relationships, more the "hostile" environment you experience is down to the fact that your opinions are now at odds with the largely changing/ changed attitude of the society you live in.

  8. Peter

    This appears flawed research, jumping to the conclusion this biased organisation (and probably yourself) wants it to jump to. Yes, it is fairly obvious homosexuality is not wholly genetically linked. Indeed most people if they were honest would admit to having SSA at one time or another. Sexuality is a spectrum rather than a rigid taxonomy and sure, emotional development is a probable contributory factor as to whether a person become mainly homosexual in adult life.

    Yet lacking a biological father could just mean women are less conditioned by the patriarchal nature of Western society and therefore more open to explore their sexuality


    • How is it flawed? Please explain?

      I'm perfectly open to the idea that the lack of a father changes the way that a woman is "conditioned" to understand societal norms. I don't think I've suggested on this thread that this proves a "developmental distress model" which many ex-gay therapists push – I'm simply noting that there is a clear difference between women who grew up with their biological parents and women who didn't. That fact can't be argued with.

  9. As for ‘The report also examined the correlation between current religious participation and homosexual conduct…’ Perhaps this American website would like to hazard a guess why, in the Western nation with the highest church attendance, the USA at 50% – whereas northern Europe hovers around 7-8%; it has one of the highest rates of divorce, teenage pregnancy, violent crime etc. whereas low rates of ‘religious participation’ have given way to considerably lower divorce rates etc. in northern European liberal democracies.

    Perhaps this demonstrates just how facile and flawed this little piece of sexual fascism is – don’t you think? I can’t understand how anyone can be so dim as to be taken in by such nastiness unless they wish to promote a Gospel of psycho-babble Pathology…


  10. I have slept since writing the above and another thought occurred to me; this nuclear family ideal – like much Christians tell us is the Bible norm – is indeed common, even the major expression of the family. However like much that is purposefully facile (needed to employ a syllogism) it takes little notice of history. I have just had a look through many downloaded copies of Census returns from 1851-1901 for England, I happen to have on my computer. The nuclear family is common but it seems no more prevalent than today. Disease, death in child birth, industrial injury and the fact single mothers were not an invention of the 1960s meant there are MANY families made up of one (or both) biological parents missing.

    Was there a greater proportion of lesbians in Victorian Britain?


  11. There seems to be a need – as this Family Ass. Website demonstrates – to believe that there was some perfect Christian world, Modernism and Liberalism has destroyed. And that such phenomena as SSA/homosexuality are rooted in a social and psychological pathology. In this respect this is a modern heresy, the application of Enlightenment concepts of cause and effect rather negates the Christian Gospel. It is ironic that Christian Orgs. are not averse to presenting an empirical positivist argument. If the same paradigm was applied to many of the foundations Christianity (not least the Bible) it would crumble to myth, wishful thinking and ‘manipulation of data’.

    • There seems to be a need – as this Family Ass. Website demonstrates – to believe that there was some perfect Christian world, Modernism and Liberalism has destroyed. And that such phenomena as SSA/homosexuality are rooted in a social and psychological pathology.

      Well said.

      Interestingly though, some of these developmental models which are suggested to support the notion of homosexuality as a pathology are not very dissimilar to the kind of exploration of one's past a qualified psychodynamic psychotherapist make take with a client.

  12. What is really going? I would suggest many Christians realise society gets on very well without it – indeed liberal democracies tend to produce more wholesome and fairer societies than when Christianity was dominant in government and daily life. Hence to present an overtly non-Biblical expression of sexuality, which also happens to be something still burdened with cultural prejudice, as a symptom social and individual sickness allows a certain species of Christian the claim of relevance. ‘The queers is here and it is the result of ‘the breakdown of society’’. Note the need to pander to myth pathologies and scaremongering. It is a sad reflection of Christianity that it is so overly interested in this subject and perhaps demonstrates – like the misfit child in the playground who chooses to bully a child with another obvious difference – that the need for scapegoats is real today as it was in Biblical times…

      • Well there is certainly a bias towards discussing the subject of homosexuality – isn't there? As to hypocrisy – do you give the same degree of scrutiny to the sexuality morality of your heterosexual flock? In this way I would suggest anyone, who parrots on about homosexuality to the extent many of our Evangelical brethren do (and that is evident here) is hypocritical. The Christian Gospel is much wider than what people do with their dangly bits!! Nor is it up to you to decide the limits and nature of God's mercy and purpose, but so many, like you do this! Often with a bias towards the homosexual as an object of particular scrutiny – forcing on these expectations and sanctions not given the same emphasis for the wider population. Hence again, I would say this is hypocrisy.

        It is my opinion, you provide space for comments – I've done what you have asked…

        • Err, Steven, I don't know whether you've been reading this blog for long, but part of its whole point is to explore issues around sexuality. My understanding is that Peter has a particular ministry in that area, so of course that subject will feature disproportionately.

          My experience of Evangelical congregations is that they give just as much attention to heterosexual morality as they do to homosexual morality, and in general discuss other aspects of morality more often than they discuss any kind of sexuality.

          That said, I'm slightly troubled by your statement that "the Christian Gospel is much wider than what people do with their dangly bits". This is true, but not really honest. Sexual behaviour is an extremely important area of morality. Can Christians really be attacked for being "obsessed"?

          Let us allow that the vast majority of religious traditions surround sexual relations with taboos, restrictions and prohibitions. Is this necessarily a bad thing? In his incisive and prescient work Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton suggested that “the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars” (p.20). I think this comparison is similarly apt when it comes to the critics of religious doctrines on sex. The strictures of, say, the Catholic Church, are often discussed as if they have been plucked out of thin air in a fit of spiteful Puritanism, a massive over-reaction to a relatively unimportant facet of human existence. It as if the church had developed a vast edifice of dogma on how believers ought to tie their shoelaces, or whether they ought to prefer tennis to football.

          But here’s the thing: sex is not remotely analogous to shoe-tying or sporting preferences. It is patently very important indeed to a great number of human beings. How could any religion worth its salt not be deeply interested in sex? To quote Chesterton again:

          “All healthy men, ancient and modern, Western and Eastern, hold that there is in sex a fury that we cannot afford to inflame; and that a certain mystery must attach to the instinct if it is to continue delicate and sane”.

          Sex is awesome. Sex hurts. Sex unites and divides. Sex creates human beings. Few things are more deeply wounding than sexual infidelity. What is one of the worst kinds of child abuse? Sex abuse. What causes more sadness, insecurity, confusion and loneliness? What causes more joy and wonder and happiness and contentment? To say that sex is an important facet of human existence is a mere platitude. It is barely more controversial to say that any ethical system that fails to provide some meaningful account of sexual desire and sexual acts is gravely deficient.

          • Thanks for this Niall____I was responding to a particular point. However, I take on board what you have said. I think you need to think carefully about what you have said about sexuality and its relevance in preaching the Gospel. It is interesting to note that in The Gospels, Jesus doesn’t single out sexual activity for special attention – indeed the only time when it does happen (John 8: 1-8) it is those crowing over another misfortune who get condemned. What comes in for special attention is from Jesus are those who live outwardly moral lives – indeed they DID lead moral lives, but used their righteousness to condemn and judge others. The Christian Gospel, first and foremost is about acknowledgement that 1) God doesn’t need us, but created us in love to be part of the communion of Love that is the Trinity

            • and 2) We have accept we can do no good thing ourselves. We are saved through grace. Hence there is no gradation of sin.

              As a former member and once on the staff of a (famous) Evangelical church I am aware homosexuality does not get pulpit time as much as internet bandwidth or media coverage. But this still represents a disproportionate concern with the subject (as a look at the Christian Institutes’ website demonstrates).

              As regards morality in general – have look at this post on my blog, it’s a bit meandering, but make some useful points related to yours above.



  13. "Women who grew up in households where their biological fathers were absent were found to be three times more likely to have had homosexual partners in the year prior to the survey than were women who grew up with their biological fathers"
    "I'm simply noting that there is a clear difference between women who grew up with their biological parents and women who didn't. That fact can't be argued with."
    "I believe I have the raw data behind this report. Will blog on it soon. "

    I'd be fascinated by an objective anaylsis of the raw data, thanks.
    How does the hetrosexual activity of the women in the two categories vary?
    How far do the two categories vary in terms of social status?
    My recent post Complaining to the ASA about the Marie Stopes Advert

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