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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

CUNY: Birth Cohort Differences in Sexual Identity Development Milestones

Dr. Christian Grov, a professor at the CUNY School of Public Health, and colleagues from Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center studied birth cohort differences in sexual identity development milestones among gay and bisexual men. The work was published in the Journal of Sex Research.

The coming-out process for gay and bisexual men involves crossing sexual identity development milestones: (1) self-awareness of sexual attraction to same sex individuals, (2) self-acceptance of an identity as gay or bisexual, (3) disclosure of this sexual identity to others, and (4) having sex with someone of the same sex. The research team examined trends in sexual identity development milestones by birth cohort in a 2015 U.S. national sample of gay and bisexual men (n = 1,023).

Birth cohort was independent of when men first felt sexually attracted to someone of the same sex (median age 11 to 12). However, with the exception of age of first same-sex attraction, older cohorts tended to pass other milestones at later ages than younger cohorts. Latent class analysis of sexual identity development milestone patterns identified three subgroups. The majority (84 percent) began sexual identity development with same-sex attraction around the onset of puberty (i.e., around age 10) and progressed to self-identification, same-sex sexual activity, and coming out-in that order. The other two classes felt same-sex attraction during teen years (ages 12.5 to 18.0) but achieved the remaining sexual identity development milestones later in life. For 13 percent of men, this was during early adulthood; for 3 percent of men, this was in middle adulthood.

The research team concluded that the findings highlight the need to monitor ongoing generational differences in passing sexual identity development milestones.

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