A new study in The Journal of Personality and Psychology has found that homophobia is more pronounced in people with unacknowledged same-sex attraction who had authoritarian homophobic parents.
The study was conducted by a team from the University of Rochester and the University of Essex in England, and the University of California in the US and involved
recording 160 college students’ mental associations with homosexuality and asking them about their home lives.
“In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward,” study co-author and University of Rochester psychology professor Richard Ryan said.
The researchers said the study also shed light on the phenomenon of anti-gay public figures who are caught having sex with other men.
“We laugh at or make fun of such blatant hypocrisy, but in a real way, these people may often themselves be victims of repression and experience exaggerated feelings of threat,” Ryan said.
The study found that people from households with authoritarian homophobic parents were more likely to be in denial about feelings of same-sex attraction, while those
with more supportive parents were more likely to be at peace with themselves.
Those with the biggest discrepancy between their reported sexuality and that demonstrated through the tests were found to be the most homophobic.
Centre for Human Potential principal psychologist Paul Martin told the Star Observer the findings matched with what he had observed in his psychology practice.
“This study replicates the results of similar well-designed studies which demonstrate the increased levels of homophobia in heterosexual-identifying males with same-sex sexual arousal,” Martin said. “It’s certainly consistent with what I’ve seen in the past.”
Martin said maintaining that internal conflict could have potential health consequences including depression, anxiety, self-harm, increased levels of substance abuse, and a heighten risk of cancer due to stress, and that the issue of parental support had a profound impact.
“Biologically speaking, we’re the most parentally dependent species on the planet, so we grow up being very attached emotionally and psychologically attached, for our survival, to our parents,” Martin said.
“That sets up a strong need not to be rejected by our parents, so if parents have been homophobic and expressed that within the household, that sends a very powerful message that the very core of who their kid is is not acceptable.
“Being emotionally rejected by your parents has shown, through research, to have pretty significant consequences including for young same-sex attracted people who are 8.5 times more likely to attempt suicide after being rejected by their parents.”