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Review of Family Research Council’s study on lesbians

Timothy Kincaid

May 24th, 2010

The Family Research Council, an avid anti-gay activist group, has released a new ‘study’ which purports to inform about the factors contributing to the sexual orientation of lesbians.

Women (aged 14-44) who have not had a homosexual sexual partner in the past year are more likely to worship at least weekly and to have grown up in intact families than those who have had a homosexual sexual partner in the past year. According to the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), 2.1 percent of women who grew up in intact married families and attend religious services at least weekly have had a homosexual sexual partner in the year prior to being asked, followed by women who grew up in other family structures and worship at least weekly (4.6 percent), those who grew up in intact married families and never worship (7.3 percent), and those who grew up in other family structures and never worship (9.5 percent).

The database selected was the National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the CDC in 2002-03 (and includes women aged 15-44). The CDC provides an easily readable abstract of sexual behavior of Americans and shines some light on FRC’s claims.

Let’s look first at FRC’s discoveries about women and church attendance. I wasn’t able to locate the NSFG stats on church attendance, but I’ll assume that they didn’t just make them up:

Let’s stop for a second to chuckle about the astonishing discovery that lesbians are less likely to currently attend church. Oh, gee, gosh, why ever could that be?

The FRC seems to think that going to church chases the gay away, that women who go to church are less likely to catch the lesbian bug, but I think that they have the cart before the horse. The answer is found in their own “related insights”:

Michele Dillon of Yale University reported that 44 percent of frequent Catholic church attendees “said that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex were wrong,” compared to 10 percent “of those who attended occasionally or never.”

I don’t find it particularly surprising that lesbians avoid the place where they are four times as likely to have “good Christians” actively seeking to make their life miserable. I’m just surprised FRC thinks anyone is so foolish as to see this from the opposite direction.

But I was surprised at a few facts.

For example, I didn’t know that over half of frequent Catholic church attendees don’t find sexual relations between two adults of the same sex to be wrong. That’s encouraging, and that was from a 1996 report.

And I also didn’t know that nearly 3% of all women who attend church weekly or monthly have had a same-sex relationship in the past year. That’s pretty impressive. As we’ll see later, that’s nearly three quarters of all lesbians, a much higher percentage than I would have guessed.

But let’s look at the more serious claim, that family structure can influence eventual orientation. Or, as FRC put it, (Catholic News Agency)

“This research further undermines the claim that homosexuality is largely genetic or biological in origin,” said Dr. Patrick F. Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at Family Research Council, 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,” he noted.

Let’s address, for a moment, the nonsensical language equating homosexuality and “chooses to engage”.

Supposing that there was an identifiable link between childhood family structure and “whether a woman chooses to engage in homosexual relationships”, this would not automatically say something about her sexual orientation. It might tell us something about how she responds to her attractions, desires, or longings, but it would not inform us about whether they were there.

And the FRC knows full well that it is being deceptive on this issue. No credible scientist, activist, theorist or blogger has ever claimed that how one responds to one’s attractions – that is, “whether one chooses” – is genetic or biological. When discussing homosexuality, we are discussing attractions, not choices and FRC demonstrates their inherent dishonesty by seeking to conflate these separate issues.

But let’s see if a causal relationship between family structure and same-sex female relationships can be found in the NSFG data. I’ve not recalculated FRC’s percentages, but here is their graph:

FRC sees this as two demographics, married intact (the good families) and all the rest (the bad families). But, they don’t present the data in a way that is informative.

Looking at this graph one might think that each category has equal weight and is statistically valid. And one might also assume that having been raised in a married, always intact family greatly reduced the odds of a woman “choosing to engage in homosexual relationships.” But what FRC convenient forgets to mention is what the NSFG reports as the total percentage of women who actually have had a same-sex relationship in the past year: 4.4%.

In other words, FRC is seeing significance and relevance in reporting that there was 0.4% fewer women who had same-sex relationships from “good” families than from the population as a whole.

Zero point four percent.

Now I’m not sure how FRC got to their numbers. Either the cohabiting step-family category was so small a sub-sample as to have little influence on the population as a whole or they had a little problem with their excel schedule. But in any case, four tenths of one percent variance certainly does not demonstrate a correlation, much less a causation.

And if FRC cared in the slightest about honesty, integrity, or truth they would feel shame and retract their statement. But I think there’s about a 0.4% chance of that happening.

Comments

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Rob in San diego
May 24th, 2010 | LINK

FRC, isn’t that the same group who’s founders and members are all in the closet and pretending that they hate us cause they hate themselves? WOW these people really need to accept themselves and come out of the closet. Wasn’t Rekkers a part of this group?

David C.
May 24th, 2010 | LINK

Zero point four percent.

Umm, that does sound like FRC is grasping at very thin straws.

FRC = junk science. Again.

Lynn David
May 24th, 2010 | LINK

That’s exactly what I thought when I read the study, 0.4% difference? Wow. Big nothing.

Edwin
May 24th, 2010 | LINK

This FRC group should Becalled the FART group because all they are putting out is a lot of crap..

DougT
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

The FRC needs to discover error bars, and quickly. OTOH, that sort of thing might lead to doing real science, and they would not like the conclusions.

Richard Rush
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

Let’s thank the Family Retard Council for spotlighting a tenuous correlation between religiosity levels and hot lesbian action. They may have opened a can of worms for themselves.

Actually, studies consistently show a correlation between high levels of religiosity and high levels of social pathology along with lower levels of education, income, and other measures of well-being. This appears to be true when looking at the entire world, and also when looking at the states within the US.

Here is one article on the subject that appeared in The Times of London. The article, titled, “Societies worse off ‘when they have God on their side’,” was discussing a study published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal.

While recognizing that correlation is not proof of cause and effect, it at least justifies taking a closer look. But any non-delusional person looking at societies where gays have higher levels of acceptance would notice that they are among the most prosperous and healthy societies on earth, while also noticing that places such as Uganda rank among the worst in the misery index. And just as surely as cancer strikes someone every day, American Super Christians are in Uganda “helping” them persecute homosexuals while doing nothing to actually help them improve their lives.

Richard Rush
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

Why did FRC’s “study” only look at lesbians? I glanced at the first page of the CDC publication, and noticed it contains data on both men and women. I have to assume that FRC was unable to manipulate the data on gay men to fit their propaganda goals.

DaveM
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

Before everyone jumps on the “church is bad!” bandwagon, let me add some perspective.

There’s at least one committed lesbian couple at my church, and they’re foster parents to 3 cute little boys, one of whom is in my son’s Sunday-school class.
There are also out gay men and teens, and the teens occasionally wear GSA shirts to our contemporary service.

Now for the perspective. I live in downstate Illinois, and attend a Methodist church. I consider myself an ally.

Look, I know that the FRC presents a very public face of what “church” is – but they’re not all. I hate what the FRC and FotF are doing in the culture war, and I resent that they permit activists to caricature Christians as “haters”. But some of the bomb-throwers on our side are culpable as well – and we must be careful not to paint Christians with the broad strokes that our opposition uses when they paint us as sinners.

Timothy Kincaid
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

Richard,

I would caution against leaping at the opportunity to suggest that religion causes unhealthy societies.

I think it is pretty well documented that in times of distress people are more inclined to seek solace and community in religion. So it would be expected that there be a correlation between religiosity and economic and social ills.

Suggesting that religion leads to social pathology is a bit, I think, like believing that religion helps you not be a lesbian. It’s putting the cart ahead of the horse.

Timothy Kincaid
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

DaveM,

Thanks for that reminder.

I’ve been in love with Methodists ever since both of the California regions of the UMC voted to oppose Proposition 8 and to commend retired ministers who offered to conduct same-sex marriages.

cd
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

I think it is pretty well documented that in times of distress people are more inclined to seek solace and community in religion. So it would be expected that there be a correlation between religiosity and economic and social ills.

But it would also be fair to say that it’s becoming less so and more transiently so. The spike-up in church attendance following 9/11 lasted about a year. The current recession has, for the first time for a major recession, resulted in no easily identified such increase.

Richard Rush
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

Timothy,

I thought I was careful about NOT “leaping at the opportunity to suggest that religion causes unhealthy societies.” But I think it’s fair to look at a correlation.

I agree that “in times of distress people are more inclined to seek solace and community in religion. So it would be expected that there be a correlation between religiosity and economic and social ills.” But I think that there may be other dynamics involved that we may not fully understand.

Comparing areas within the U.S. should be easier than comparing nations where there are many more variables involved. So within the U.S., people should have, on rough average, fairly similar opportunities, but we know that people in certain geographic areas holding fundamentalist religious beliefs have higher levels of social pathology along with lower levels of education, income, and other measures of well-being. It’s difficult to imagine why their geographic location would keep them in distress, unless it would be the lack of natural resources, transportation barriers, or farmland fertility. So that leaves social/religious factors. And anyone not living in a cave knows that religious tentacles always reach out in all directions to influence everything within reach.

Timothy Kincaid
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

Richard,

Just keep in mind that correlation is not causation and may, in fact, demonstrate the opposite relationship.

After all, hospitals don’t cause broken legs, even if there is a correlation.

People with social ills quite often turn to churches as a first source of help.

T.J.
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

Dave M. – Good point and thanks for the reminder.

Richard Rush – the important thing about the research you quote is that this correlation is found among religious fundamentalists. They are only a tiny subset of religious people, however, so, even if you could establish causation, the result would not generalize to all religious people, just to those who are most conservative. Overall, being religious correlates moderately with happiness (though some research fails to find a relationship). I am just finishing some research as part of my masters degree on the fundamentalist population and I too have found the correlation to which you allude. However, one would need to conduct a path analysis in order to determine what is causing what. You mentioned a lot of variables. Also, I’m not sure what you are referring to as social pathology. Could you be more specific? Fundamentalists in general do not present with significantly higher levels of mental health pathology (authoritarians may be a different story), though it is beyond dispute that they are more prejudiced toward out-groups such as gays and those less religious (a prejudice that can clearly be seen in the FRC article). Another thing we know for sure from the research is that poverty is a cause of lower well-being and increased stress, so it’s more likely that this is the cause. The way to know for sure would be to study fundamentalists as a whole, because there are rich fundamentalists too. If the group as a whole does not exhibit pathology but there is a relationship (correlation) between fundamentalist income level and happiness, then we know that poverty is the variable of cause and not the religious orientation. I would be willing to bet that this is exactly what the research would show. Believe me, I’m not trying to defend fundamentalists. I used to be one and there’s nothing in this world that could make me go back, but from a scientific perspective, I want to be fair.

Timothy Kincaid
May 25th, 2010 | LINK

T.J.

Please keep us informed of the results of your work.

Richard Rush
May 26th, 2010 | LINK

T.J.,

First I should note, although I’m sure it’s obvious, I have no academic credentials in social sciences (or in any scientific field). My comments here are based on the haphazard process of absorbing information (with selection-bias) over my 65 years. So I welcome further information.

My use of the term “high levels of religiosity” was intended to mean fundamentalism, not the religion as practiced by most people in so-called mainstream protestant denominations and Catholics in the US. And I did say that I recognized that “correlation is not proof of cause and effect,” although to be honest, I do tend to believe there may be some.

I do wonder about your saying that fundamentalists “are only a tiny subset of religious people.” Perhaps wrongly, I tend to equate evangelicals with fundamentalists, and I surmise that somewhere between 25% and 33% of Americans are evangelicals. So even if only 10% of Americans are fundamentalists, that would be roughly 30 million Super Christians.

My use of the term “social pathology” was probably sloppy. I had in mind such things as teenage pregnancy, and drug/alcohol addiction.

Some of my assertions are influenced by the very personal experience of my upbringing. If my religious background comes up in casual conversation, I usually say I was raised Presbyterian (PCUSA), but that is only about 2/3 true. The other 1/3 was Assembly of God (AOG). During my teenage years I lived with the PCUSA parent, but often visited the AOG parent who was very fundamentalist. The difference was dramatic:

First, the AOG house: Literally every piece of reading material, except the daily newspaper, was religious. Most items hanging on the walls were religious. The AOG parent filtered every experience through religion. World events were interpreted according to how they contributed to fulfilling so-called Biblical prophecy. Bibles had to be periodically replaced because they wore out from over-use. But despite the fundamentalism there are things about my AOG parent that I admire.

The PCUSA house had no religious reading material at all, except possibly a Bible on a shelf collecting dust. Our PCUSA household went to church most Sundays. It was just something you did, like brushing your teeth. But religious discussion or prayer at home never occurred, except for saying grace on Thanksgiving and Easter.

I have to say, thankfully, that I was never personally damaged by religion at all. Well, I did have several near-death experiences due to extreme boredom at PCUSA services. But the AOG services were much more entertaining.

My personal experience relates to the topic here in that I have to believe that communities comprised largely of people with beliefs similar to my AOG parent would almost certainly raise children to become ignorant, superstitious, incurious, uninterested in education, unambitious, and probably economically poor. Even if a cause/effect is not (yet?) established, I have to at least believe there is a symbiotic relationship, which I suppose is a step beyond correlation.

Full disclosure: I have gradually progressed from assuming that Christianity was basically true, through an agnostic period, to my present non-belief in the existence of any gods.

Here are some links that may (or may not) be of interest:

http://pitweb2.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html

http://open.salon.com/blog/mahabarbara/2009/12/09/knowledge_vs_ignorance_and_ignorance_is_winning

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2758825/

Timothy Kincaid
May 26th, 2010 | LINK

Richard,

My personal experience relates to the topic here in that I have to believe that communities comprised largely of people with beliefs similar to my AOG parent would almost certainly raise children to become ignorant, superstitious, incurious, uninterested in education, unambitious, and probably economically poor. Even if a cause/effect is not (yet?) established, I have to at least believe there is a symbiotic relationship, which I suppose is a step beyond correlation.

I can see where you might think that. However, I don’t think that your personal experience can be extrapolated to all fundamentalists or even all Pentecostals.

Here’s my perspective:

Pentecostalism started as a faith for the poor and uneducated (oddly enough, to a large extent in Los Angeles). It’s origins were egalitarian and multi-racial with black pastors and women pastors (racism soon led to a split when some thought it inappropriate for black men to be pastors over white congregants).

Few early leaders were seminary trained and much emphasis was placed on the literal words of the King James version of the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit. (My migrant farm worker grandparents were among the very early converts).

But in the past several decades it has become much more mainstream. The “name it and claim it” doctrine emphasized wealth and that required education and ambition. And a desire to be seen as legitimate (rather than hillbilly holy rollers) has led to a greater emphasis in religious qualifications.

Now Pentecostals have happily reached middle class respectability wherein they both respect and distrust education and have adopted ambition as a creed.

Peter Ould
May 26th, 2010 | LINK

Tim,

I agree with you that the church attendance figures are meaningless in terms of causation of homosexuality. Have to disagree on the family environments.

You’re right that small subsets might be having an effect (and we don’t have the raw data), but there is a clear statistically significant difference between those growing up in married or cohabiting natural parents families, and those where there has been a relationship breakdown. The key comparator is *not* comparing to the average but rather comparing from one sub-group to the other. When those who did not grow up in a stable environment with both natural parents have *at least* a 50% higher probability of have a same-sex partner then we start having to ask the question “why?”.

I’d also want to know the subgroup sizes for the two natural parent categories, as they look close enough to be identical. If that were so, then it means that those of us on the conservative side would need to begin addressing whether the assumption that “marriage is better then cohabitation” is necessarily true with regard to this issue.

Timothy Kincaid
May 26th, 2010 | LINK

No Peter, there is not a “clear statistically significant difference”.

I have no idea how they calculated their numbers (and, being FRC, they don’t provide their methods), but in order for some groups to be so far off the average (cohabiting step families, for example) their sample size would by necessity be very small. Very very small, actually.

FRC does not present an un-muddled comparison of “good” family v. “bad” family, instead opting to confuse the calculations with church attendance. But from what I can calculate, it would be very difficult for the more outlying of these other family forms to have a statistically significant sample size.

So it is extremely unlikely that they are statistically significant findings. And as FRC does not provide their margin of error or their probability, we can put no reliance whatsoever on their “percentages”.

If the FRC wishes to present their methodology, their database, and their probability and margin of error, I’ll consider whether they have any case. Otherwise, I’m just finding Paul Cameron all over again.

Peter Ould
May 27th, 2010 | LINK

Tim,

You are mistaken when you write “in order for some groups to be so far off the average (cohabiting step families, for example) their sample size would by necessity be very small” you are simply wrong. It is perfectly feasible for sub groups to be dissimilar to the entire sample. That is the very point of doing this research.

You are normally very reasonable on this blog but I fear in this instance you have allowed your prejudices to affect a clear analysis of the data. The data in question is unconnected to church attendance – it simply enquires as to the family background of women who have had a female partner in the past 12 months.

While I agree with you that we need to see the raw data, the data provided so far is enough to at least begin to ponder the causality of the result.

Timothy Kincaid
May 27th, 2010 | LINK

Peter,

With all due respect, I’m an accountant by occupation and I specialize in financial analysis. My job is to look at numbers and see if they make sense.

I have developed by now a pretty good intuition, but I ran some numbers to see if I could make sense of this.

The average as reported by the CDC is 4.4%. The average for “good” families as reported by FRC is 4.0%.

If a subset is only skewing an average by a very small amount (in this case 0.004), then the farther away from the average that this sample presents, the smaller it has to be.

To illustrate, suppose that all the six subpopulations were the same size. Then the average of the percentages would be 6.2. But it isn’t, rather it is nearly the same as the first and third subpopulation.

Assuming, on the other hand, that all of the “bad” family configurations were the same size, then the first category would by necessity be 85% of the total population in order to come to 4.4%, and each other subcategory is about 3% of the total population. If we assume that subsets 1 and 3 are about the same size then the others average 2% of the population.

I’m not saying that 2-3% of a population is always too small of a sample to use for analysis, but the smaller your sample, the larger the margin of error and the lower the probability.

But in this instance, the survey was of 7,643 women, of whom about 337 had a relationship with another woman in the past year.

Now breaking the total women up into six categories, with the largest majority being a combination of 1 and 3 (a mathematical necessity), then the sample size of the diverging demographics is probably only about 150 to 230 people, and the total who were in a relationship (in the diverging groups) range from about 9 up to, maybe, 22.

With sample sizes this tiny, there is no “clear statistically significant difference”. In order to give this any credibility whatsoever, we would need more info.

I invite you to run your own scenarios and let me know if you come to different sample sizes, ones large enough to be statistically valid.

I know that it “looks” like science, but it is nothing more than propaganda.

Peter Ould
May 28th, 2010 | LINK

Tim,

I take your point and we can’t really comment until we’ve seen the size of the groups. That said, I did feel you were coming across saying “This just isn’t true” rather than “I don’t think the data is large enough”.

Running it through SPSS this afternoon and we’ll see.

Timothy Kincaid
May 28th, 2010 | LINK

Peter,

Having adequate size is only the first step. Even if there were some correlation that was statistically valid, we would have to eliminate other factors to find causation.

FRC did none of that. They simply Cameroned the data and presented there suppositions as fact.

Peter Ould
May 28th, 2010 | LINK

You have my complete agreement that correlation does not mean causation, but then I’ve never argued that.

T.J.
May 28th, 2010 | LINK

TIM: I will certainly keep you updated on my research. Also, I have spent at least five hours tonight trying to locate the sources of information that FRC used in this so-called study. I found the actual data sets for SPSS that were used and downloaded them to my computer. I’m familiar with SPSS, but not with data sets that contain 2,000 to 3,000 variables (and that’s in each of the three data sets)! I went through the individual variables, but did not find ones that corresponded to the categories found in the CDC report or the ones used by FRC. So, sadly, in all my research I cannot locate the source of their information. My only thought is to directly contact the committee involved in the study and see if they can verify FRC’s analysis and also if they could provide the actual numbers FRC is using.

Like you said in the article, the correlation is only between behavior and family of origin (and only for the past 12 months). If they wanted to run a more accurate analysis they should have examined the 11% of women who said that they had experienced sex with another woman at some time in their lifetime or, even better, only focused on the 1.8% who self-identified as Lesbians. My guess is that it’s likely an illusory correlation. The reason I suspect this is that in communities such as the African American community, there is a disproportional rate of “non-intact” homes and the rates of gay and lesbian people in that community are no higher than the population at large. This is the opposite of what we would expect if FRC’s claims were right. I guess what I’m driving at is that this “study” would be the first of its kind to demonstrate this relationship IF the numbers are statistically significant. Like I said, I was unable to find the hard data, though the summary of the numbers you posted suggest that statistical significance would be suspect. It’ll be interesting to see what Peter comes up with.

RICHARD: I’m sorry you had such a negative experience growing up. Mine wasn’t quite as bad. When I say that fundamentalists are a small portion, I mean over all within the faith. You’re right, it’s much higher here in the USA. What you also mentioned about fundamentalists being weary of higher education is very true. That’s typical of many conservatives whether religious or not. And it probably is what accounts for the greater poverty like I mentioned. I’ll check out your links, thanks for sharing!

Peter Ould
May 29th, 2010 | LINK

The same-sex data isn’t on the data file publicly available (I too spent hours inside SPSS!), so I’ve gone to Sullins to ask him for his work including sample sizes and statistical analysis. I have that back now and will be blogging at some point over the weekend.

Bottom line – on the family background / lesbian activity data the differences are statistically significant for all comparisons to “intact with married biological parents”. I’ll post more in my blog when I have a spare moment.

I’m not sure it’s valid at this point to say “it’s likely an illusory correlation” (though I accept that’s just a supposition). What might be useful is putting together some testable hypotheses on what the correlation is about and then seeing if we can go about exploring them.

Peter Ould
May 29th, 2010 | LINK

I have the tests for significance up here – http://www.peter-ould.net/2010/05/29/follow-up-on-the-family-background-lesbianism-study

Timothy Kincaid
May 29th, 2010 | LINK

Peter,

I looked over your info and the first things I noticed were:

1. Your chart doesn’t add up.

2. The total women in this analysis are about 2,000 fewer than the total of all women in the study.

3. The FRC average for all women was 4.9% but the CDC reported an average of 4.4%. I’ll have to look further to see why, but the sample size for the CDC seems to be larger. I was under the impression that it was the same database, but I may be mistaken.

T.J.
May 29th, 2010 | LINK

Peter and Tim,

Great report. I’m glad to know that it wasn’t my researching abilities being poor that kept me from finding the data LOL. I’m glad that Professor Sullins went beyond the chi-square test, because they have a lot of built-in assumptions which is why they are not used very often. I agree with his analysis. If the t-test shows significance then it is a significant finding because the sample size is not trivial, though I would like to know, along with Tim, why the numbers are different. This may seem picky, but FRC wants to be taken seriously and yet they report the wrong numbers in their ‘study.’ That’s totally unacceptable. Again, Sullins is right about needing more advanced statistical tests. Let me suggest a few things from a further review of the data I did tonight and end with a hypothesis that would explain the significant findings:

1. Something I said in my last post and something Tim pointed out in the main article is that the relationship here is between sexual behavior and family structure. Even if the relationship bears itself out in further analyses, it proves nothing about orientation. This is critical! Anyone who has done even a little reading on the topic knows that human beings engage in sexual behavior for all sorts of reasons besides in fulfillment of their sexual orientation. For example, in this study, overall, 11.2% of women reported a same-sex sexual experience in their lifetimes, but only 1.8% identify as lesbians. That means of all women who ever engaged in same-sex behavior, only 16% of them identify as lesbians. So, right from the outset, we know this study doesn’t prove anything about sexual orientation per se since the overwhelming majority of those engaging in these behaviors tell us they’re straight!

2. In their book “Born Gay”(2008), Glenn Wilson and Qazi Rahman review the most recent studies on sexual orientation identification. It seems that, despite the common assumption of a large number of bisexuals, they actually only make up about 0.2% to 1.0% of the population at large, perhaps a bit higher depending on how the question is asked. In this study, the overall number of women identifying as bisexual is 2.8% which is significantly higher. However, if you break it down by age group an interesting pattern develops. Here it is:

18-19 = 7.4%
20-24 = 3.5%
25-29 = 2.8%
30-34 = 2.1%
35-44 = 2.0%

Notice the decline. The number of those identifying as bisexuals goes down 73% over the course of 25 years or so. What should our conclusion be? Wilson and Rahman (2008) observed the same pattern in their research and I just read a couple journal articles this week that identified the same trend in their data. It appears that the bisexual categories become depleted over time as people become more experienced and discover who they are with more certainty (and at that point identifying as hetero or homosexuals). And, as you can see, the change between 18 and 29 is far more dramatic than the change between 30 and 44. This conforms to the aforementioned research findings which all indicate that by the mid to late twenties we stop seeing the shift in identification as people consolidate their identity. Just to reinforce this and to lead into my next point I will show the same breakdown for women who have had a same-sex sexual experience in the past twelve months.

15-19 = 7.7%
20-24 = 5.8%
25-29 = 3.6%
30-34 = 3.0%
35-39 = 4.5%
40-44 = 2.4%

You see the same steady decline, suggesting that fewer women are having sexual experiences with women because more of them are consolidating their identity (the only anomaly was the 35-39 year old age range, but their numbers were different in all the categories across the table, so there may have been a sampling issue there or perhaps women get hornier in that age range LOL J/K). And it needs to be pointed out that between 25 and 44 the percentages are BELOW the overall 4.9% average. So, it appears that the most active women are those who are younger, again confirming my earlier thoughts.

3. All this leads me to a hypothesis that may explain the correlation. We know that people who emerge from more unstable homes tend to have more emotional baggage than those who emerge from intact homes. People from intact homes tend to have a more solid sense of who they are, because their developmental path through a stable home environment allowed them to consolidate that identity (including the question of their sexual orientation) during their teen years (thus, not as great of a need to sexually experiment). So, my theory stands to reason, that those from non-intact homes, with greater unresolved emotional issues have yet to consolidate their identity and, as such, have not yet identified their sexual orientation with the certainty that those from intact homes have by the time they reach high school graduation. The delay in identity formation means they would continue to engage in same-sex experimentation as part of the self-discovery process. In these cases where the women have not completed that developmental task in high school or early college, they tend to complete it sometime in their twenties, at which time we would expect the same-sex sexual experimentation to decline and this data clearly suggests that it does. THEREFORE, if the data that Professor Sullins provided can be broken up into age ranges for each of those family structures and the numbers decline in the same way as the previous examples, then the variable of “delay in identity formation process due to emotionally volatile home life” could potentially be identified as the causal factor in the statistically significant differences FRC put out and a demonstration of those numbers decreasing as we go up through the age ranges would show that the process of consolidating one’s sexual identity is still going on in those groups, albeit delayed due to the home environment. THUS, the conclusion would not be that non-intact families produce lesbianism as they wanted to spin it, but that non-intact homes cause a delay in the developmental process of an adolescent’s consolidating his personal and sexual identities, leading to higher levels of same-sex experimentation, but that they catch up with the process by the end of their twenties and the same-sex experimentation levels drop off.

If FRC wanted to show this correlation with the 1.8% of self-identified lesbians, they could have made their case that family structure makes one gay. However, it is my suspicion that the data does not show that, so they went with the next best thing. As far as the religious services thing is concerned, that’s simple. Those who grow up in non-intact homes attend religious services far less often in general. We know that already from other research. Thus, it’s not surprising that the women who engaged in same-sex activity who came from those homes would be less likely to attend services as regularly anyway. That’s a no brainer. And it’s also insulting because the implication is that those who don’t go to services regularly are immoral people and “this proves it!” Circular reasoning has always annoyed me. Peter, Tim, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this when you get some time.

T.J.
May 30th, 2010 | LINK

HOLD IT!! I found a mistake in Professor Sullivan’s calculations. I got two sets of numbers. The first was the exact numbers he got. However, those numbers are invalid because he forgot to control for the homogeneity of the variance. Anytime you are comparing two different size samples you will not have the same variance, so you must perform a statistical control so that the comparisons are made with the groups being equal in their variance. Well, I used SPSS tonight after I wrote that ridiculously long post and controlled for the unequal variance and lo and behold a very different picture emerges. I will try and reconstruct the table I made in Excel below

1 2 3 4 5
0 NS NS .003 .015 NS

1 NS NS NS NS

2 .014 NS NS

3 NS NS

4 NS

This is huge. It shows there is only a significant difference between the married intact group and both the cohabitating step family and the divorced single family. That means that there is no difference between the amount of female-same sex behavior in married intact groups and both the married stepparent and always single parent group. The only other significant difference was between the intact cohabitating group and the cohabitating stepfamily.

I also ran an ANOVA with the numbers and it shows no significance between any groups except the intact marriage group and the cohabitating stepfamily group (which also was significantly different from the intact cohabitating group).

What does this mean?

1. It means that there is no more female same-sex behavior among women who came from always single-parent homes and married stepparent homes than from intact married homes. This is huge. And there’s no doubt that if this is true with the sexual behavior that no correlation will exist among the 1.8% of lesbians. It jives with some research I read through Warren Throckmorton’s site last night – namely that family structure does not influence sexual orienation.

2. If the results of the ANOVA hold up it will show that the only differences are between the two intact groups and the cohabitating stepfamily. My theory would explain that very well.

So, once again another FRC smear job bites the dust. :)

(Tim, if the chart doesn’t display correctly, I’d be happy to email you my chart as well as all the charts from SPSS that show the calculations and which ones were significant)

Peter Ould
May 30th, 2010 | LINK

TJ,

Explain why you would want to test for homoscedasticity with this dataset. Get as technical as you want!

T.J.
May 30th, 2010 | LINK

Hi Peter…I would have wanted to test for homoscedasticity because the sample sizes are highly unequal. I just assumed unequal variances. However, much to my surprise, I just ran the variances for each family condition and they are not widely enough different to use the Hartley test, so I apologize, I should have checked that first.

However, if you remember, Professor Sullins said we needed more advanced statistical procedures to know anything with more certainty. Well, the ANOVA is a far more accurate way of determining significance when you have multiple groups that by performing individual t-tests. When you do individual t-tests for all the conditions involved, you are drastically increasing the experimentwise alpha level (the possibility of a type I error). So, in order to have a more certain result at the same confidence that one individual t-test would provide, we should test the groups all at the same time using the ANOVA. I did that last night and the results are clear: The only significant difference was found between the cohabitating stepfamily and the two intact family structures. All other relationships are non-significant. To put it another way would be to say that married intact, cohabitating intact, always single, married stepparent, and single-divorced all had about the same mean average number of women engaging in same-sex behavior. ANOVA is the more accurate statistical tool and this is the conclusion it shows. If you would like the graphs, I’d be happy to send them to you, but I repeat my assertion that the FRC study has not shown anything like they purport. The truth is that the difference between the average amount of same-sex behavior among women originating from non-intact families of origin IS NOT significantly different from the average amount of same-sex behavior among women originating from intact families of origin except in the case of cohabitating step families. And I believe my hypothesis from my previous post lends a possible explanation for why this is true.

Timothy Kincaid
May 31st, 2010 | LINK

TJ,

Thank you for the statistical analysis. It does shed light on FRC’s claims.

And your hypothesis does offer a possible explanation (assuming that the whole thing is not bogus – we won’t know until we find out why 1/4 of women are not accounted for). I’d also like to have you consider an alternate hypothesis, using the same logic.

If it can be shown that women from cohabiting step families (CHS) have statistically higher incidences of same-sex expression, this is only relevant if it is uniquely same-sex.

In other words, it may simply be that CHS women are having more sex in general than those from an intact family structure (IFS). If IFS women are not having a lot of sex, then it would be only expected that they would have lower levels of same-sex activity – along with lower levels of opposite sex activity.

I think it likely that if we ran the numbers for opposite sex activity in the last year, it would likely “prove” that women from intact families are both less homosexual AND less heterosexual.

Which, of course, is nonsense.

T.J.
May 31st, 2010 | LINK

Sure thing Tim. I think that’s a great hypothesis you got there. That would be another way to go and perhaps offer a more parsimonious explanation. You’re right, it is nonsense if that’s what we find, but then again, they seem to major in nonsense, so ya never know! LOL. Of course, though, in that case, they could proclaim victory still, because they believe in no sex till marriage, so the less sex of any kind is looked at as an improvement and victory for the IFS. Either way, they’ll spin it to make their argument look as if it’s suppported. Does this make sense or am I misunderstanding you?

Timothy Kincaid
June 1st, 2010 | LINK

I think we share the same impression of the FRC

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