In my 2002 article on ex-gay research, I cited a study by Nottebaum et al which explored change among Exodus participants. In addition to comparing gay and ex-gay groups on change, the study compared self-assessments of quality of parent-child relationships. Here is the portion of my article where I refer to this study:
Nottebaum et al. (2000) asked participants if they had good relationships with their mothers and fathers while growing up. The gay male/lesbian participants described a significantly better relationship with parents than did the Exodus group. The Exodus men
especially disagreed with the question. At least two broad possibilities
exist to help clarify this finding. First, the gay men and lesbians who decided to change had childhood experiences different from those who identified themselves as gay (and who continued with that identification). Perhaps those who seek reorientation really do demonstrate a childhood pattern similar to the one predicted by ex-gay theorists Moberly (1983) and Nicolosi (1991). Perhaps, however, those gay men and lesbians who did not seek change experienced more satisfying childhood relationships. If this hypothesis could be supported by additional empirical work, then perhaps reparative theory may only describe those gay men and lesbians who are significantly distressed by their sexual feelings. Another perspective is that each group interpreted their experiences in keeping with the theory of causation of same-sex feelings most acceptable to them. Given that many Exodus groups assert a specific reparative theoretical view of causation, the participants in Exodus could experience a need to reinterpret their experiences through this theoretical framework. Additionally, the report of the gay male and lesbian sample may then have been a better-than actual representation to avoid fitting the traditional stereotype.
Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith’s research seems to support the former hypothesis and I should have cited those findings at that time. Please note that while it is possible that childhood disruptions with parents play a role in later sexuality, it is also plausible that childhood gender nonconformity could figure into negative parental responses to children (moreso boys than girls). Thus, negativity of relationship is present but not causative of adult sexual attractions. The narrative presented by a reparative therapist or ministry as a cause would seem quite plausible given the co-occurrence of negative interactions and socially nonconforming gender interests.
On point, the existence of same-sex attracted people without any trauma in their history seems to falsify this recent statement of Joe Nicolosi:
In other words, that fact remains that if you traumatize a child in a particular way you will create a homosexual condition. If you do not traumatize a child, he will be heterosexual. If you do not traumatize a child in a particular way, he will be heterosexual. The nature of that trauma is an early attachment break during the bonding phase with the father.
In Bell et al’s study, more homosexual men than heterosexual men described composite pictures of their father as being detached and hostile. However, 37% of heterosexual men viewed their fathers in the same way as the homosexual men (52%) did. All studies find overlap in the two groups. Clearly, there are straight men who have the “father wound” (just ask most any Mankind Project New Warrior) and gay men who don’t. For many men and women who seek therapy or are unhappy, the reparative narrative seems to describe their experience but that narrative may not have caused their attractions to take the directions they do.
-Nottebaum, L. J., Schaeffer, K. W., Rood, J., & Leffler, D. (2000). Sexual orientation—A comparison study. Manuscript submitted for publication. (Available from Kim Schaeffer, Department of Psychology, Point Loma Nazarene University, 3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego, CA 92106)