First Advisor

Pamela O. Munter

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Lesbianism, Homosexuality, Homosexuality -- psychology



Physical Description

1 online resource (88 p.)


The purpose of this review is to evaluate the methodology of past and present research with female homosexuals and then to summarize the current state of knowledge in psychology and psychiatry. The data presented in this review have been derived predominantly from material abstracted in the Medicus Index (1900-1976) and Psychology Abstracts (1927-1976).

This reviewer has established specific criteria by which all studies throughout this literature review will be examined. These are: sample size, sampling of experimental control groups, variable controlled (age, education, etc), how sexual orientation was determined, and tests and questionnaires employed, their reliability, validity, administration, and interpretation.

It has been shown that both the clinical and nonclinical research populations are extremely biased. Historically and currently, the clinical researchers have utilized small and unspecified populations. This type of research is usually in the form of case studies and has been psychoanalytically oriented. Currently, clinical researchers have attempted to overcome the methodological problems by using control groups, standardized tests, statistical analysis of data, etc. However, adequate clinical studies have been few and their findings highly tentative. The most serious problem with the clinical research is sampling.

Nonclinical research on the other hand, has used samples comprised of young, white, educated and middle class subjects.

Researchers have attempted to find objective criteria that would discriminate between heterosexual and homosexual women, using projective techniques and self-report inventories, but their results are inconclusive. Data have shown, however, that there are significant differences between “butch” and “fem” lesbians and male homosexuals. Future research will need to determine the sex role "preference of both the homo sexual and heterosexual groups, otherwise differences between the two groups may be the result of a larger proportion of “butch” lesbians being compared to "fem" heterosexuals.

The etiology of female homosexuality has been an enduring topic in psychology and psychiatry. To date, researchers have not found any genetic or hormonal characteristics associated with the phenomenon of homosexuality in women. Research focusing on the psychodynamic aspects of homosexuality have found that lesbians have poorer relationships with both parents, experience more interparent friction and less family security, feel less feminine, and are less accepting of the feminine role then heterosexual women. Although these are statistically significant differences between heterosexual and homosexual women it is unknown how, or even whether they affect the development of homosexuality.

Female homosexuality has been considered by many mental health professionals as a disease, neurosis, or degenerative condition. The data have failed to show that female homosexuals are less well-adjusted then their heterosexual controls.

The treatment of female homosexuality has almost been completely neglected. The majority of the literature has reported on the techniques and theories used on male homosexuals. The few studies that have used female homosexuals are methodologically inadequate. They did not use control groups, standardized instruments to measure the degree of change of sexual orientation, or, adequate follow-up studies. Extensive research needs to be completed to determine if the techniques and theories derived from the treatment of male homosexuals are applicable to lesbians.

Considerable more research in the areas of etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of female homosexuality needs to be completed before any tentative statements can be made.


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