Lost in translation? The hazards of applying social constructionism to quantitative research on sexual orientation development

J Homosex. 2002;42(3):89-102. doi: 10.1300/J082v42n03_06.


This article explores the hazards faced by social constructionists who attempt to conduct quantitative research on sexual orientation development. By critically reviewing two quantitative research studies, this article explores the ways in which the very nature of social constructionist arguments may be incongruous with the methodological requirements of quantitative studies. I suggest this conflict is a result of the differing natures of these two modes of scholarly inquiry. While research requires the acceptance of certain analytical categories, the strength of social constructionism comes from its reflexive scrutiny and problematization of those very categories. Ultimately, social constructionists who try to apply their theories/perspectives must necessarily conform to the methodological constraints of quantitative research. The intent of this article is not to suggest that it is futile or self-contradictory for social constructionists to attempt empirical research, but that these are two distinct modes of scholarly inquiry which can, and should, co-exist in a dialectical relationship to each other.

MeSH terms

  • Human Development
  • Humans
  • Research* / trends
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Maturation
  • Sociology