The Link Between Childhood Trauma, Psychopathology And Sexual Orientation
Childhood Trauma And Sexual Orientation :
A study, based on statistics and information derived from the National Longitudinal Study Of Adolescent Health (2001-2002) examined the link between sexual orientation and history of childhood maltreatment. This research involved analysis relating to 13,962 participants that comprised young people between the ages of 18 and 27, of which :
- 227 were gay/lesbian
- 245 were bisexual
- 13,490 were heterosexual
One of the primary aims of the study was to examine how sexual orientation was linked to experiences of childhood trauma and it was found that :
- gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced childhood trauma (including physical and sexual abuse) compared to heterosexuals
- bisexual participants were also more likely to have experienced childhood trauma (including physical and sexual abuse) compared to heterosexuals
The study also looked at the prevalence of psychopathology amongst the three groups (see above) of participants and it was found that :
- gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced symptoms of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals
- bisexual participants were also more likely to have experienced symptoms of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals
(Psychopathological symptoms included depression, binge drinking, use of illegal drugs, smoking, alcoholism, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts)
Mediating Factors :
It was also found that :
- gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced homelessness/housing adversity than heterosexuals
- bisexuals were more likely to have experienced homelessness/housing adversity and also more likely to have suffered violence visited upon them by their intimate partners than heterosexuals
The researchers concluded that factors such as the above, i.e. higher levels of childhood trauma, homelessness/housing adversity and experiences of domestic violence found amongst the gay/lesbian/bisexual population partially mediated (underlay) their higher rates of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals. However, their statistical analysis suggested that only about 10-20 per cent of this difference was explained by the factors (childhood trauma, homelessness/housing adversity, domestic violence) described.
More research is necessary to tease out more information about how these various factors inter-relate to one another and what other factors may explain the association between childhood trauma, psychopathology and sexual orientation.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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