Sexual orientation and handedness in men and women: a meta-analysis

Psychol Bull. 2000 Jul;126(4):575-92. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.126.4.575.


Recent findings suggest that sexual orientation has an early neurodevelopmental basis. Handedness, a behavioral marker of early neurodevelopment, has been associated with sexual orientation in some studies but not in others. The authors conducted a meta-analysis of 20 studies that compared the rates of non-right-handedness in 6,987 homosexual (6,182 men and 805 women) and 16,423 heterosexual (14,808 men and 1,615 women) participants. Homosexual participants had 39% greater odds of being non-right-handed. The corresponding values for homosexual men (20 contrasts) and women (9 contrasts) were 34% and 91%, respectively. The results support the notion that sexual orientation in some men and women has an early neurodevelopmental basis, but the factors responsible for the handedness-sexual orientation association require elucidation. The authors discuss 3 possibilities: cerebral laterality and prenatal exposure to sex hormones, maternal immunological reactions to the fetus, and developmental instability.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / genetics*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality* / genetics
  • Homosexuality* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Sex Characteristics