Homosexuality as a Discrete Class

Psychol Sci. 2015 Dec;26(12):1843-53. doi: 10.1177/0956797615598617. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


Previous research on the latent structure of sexual orientation has returned conflicting results, with some studies finding a dimensional structure (i.e., ranging quantitatively along a spectrum) and others a taxonic structure (i.e., categories of individuals with distinct orientations). The current study used a sample (N = 33,525) from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). A series of taxometric analyses were conducted using three indicators of sexual orientation: identity, behavior, and attraction. These analyses, performed separately for women and men, revealed low-base-rate same-sex-oriented taxa for men (base rate = 3.0%) and women (base rate = 2.7%). Generally, taxon membership conferred an increased risk for psychiatric and substance-use disorders. Although taxa were present for men and women, women demonstrated greater sexual fluidity, such that any level of same-sex sexuality conferred taxon membership for men but not for women.

Keywords: NESARC; latent structure; sexual orientation; taxometric analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Homosexuality / classification*
  • Homosexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Identification*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States