A test of the maternal stress theory of human male homosexuality

Arch Sex Behav. 1991 Jun;20(3):277-93. doi: 10.1007/BF01541847.


Both the neurohormonal theory of sexual orientation and previous research on humans and animals suggest that male homosexuality may arise from prenatal stress during the brain's sexual differentiation. Stress-proneness and retrospective reports of stress during pregnancy were obtained from mothers of male and female heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals. Each mother also rated pregnancy stress for a heterosexual sibling of the subject. For males, neither between-family nor within-family analyses revealed a maternal stress effect for either sexual orientation or childhood gender nonconformity. However, mothers of effeminate children reported more stress-proneness than other mothers. Male homosexuality nevertheless was strongly familial, suggesting a reconsideration of genetic and familial environmental mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Genetic Variation
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Homosexuality / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Sibling Relations
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires