Psychosocial and experiential factors relevant to discrepancies among the affective, behavioral and identity components of sexual orientation

Date of Completion

January 2000


Psychology, Clinical




In the present study, factors relevant to discrepancies among sexual feelings, sexual behavior and sexual identification were investigated. Nine hundred and twenty-eight participants recruited from undergraduate classes, campus groups, churches, gay organizations and conferences, and friendship networks were asked to anonymously complete survey questionnaires concerning their sexual and romantic experiences, sexual identities, and gender identity. Participants were also asked questions about their attitude toward homosexuality and their own sexual feelings. The results revealed that 30% of exclusively heterosexually identified people and 88% of exclusively gay identified people report experiencing bisexual feelings at some point in their lives. Factors found to be relevant to this discrepancy between sexual identification, and sexual and romantic feelings include the relative quality of homosexual versus heterosexual experiences, the timing of these experiences, attitude toward one's sexual feelings, and gender identity. Gender identity was also found to be a significant factor in the self-report of homosexual feelings for people who identified as exclusively heterosexual. In general, exclusively heterosexually identified people who did not report homosexual feelings had more polarized gender identities in relation to more negative attitudes toward lesbians and/or gay men, and scored higher on a measure of social desirability. These findings support the view that sexual orientation exists along a continuum, and suggest that psychosocial factors play an important role in sexual identification and self-report of sexual and romantic experiences. The implications of these findings in terms of how we view sexual identity categories and sexual orientation are discussed. ^