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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sexual identity development in the context of a changing culture: A phenomenological study
by Henderson, Gregory Edward, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2009, 318; 3406156
Abstract (Summary)

This study sought to discover to what extent, if at all, we should use essentialist and constructionist paradigms to understand the phenomenon of sexual orientation. In order to find out, a phenomenological study was devised to discover if changes in culture over the past 50 years had significantly affected the process of sexual identity development among homosexual men.

The study was accomplished by first reviewing the literature to determine that changes in cultural attitudes and theory had indeed occurred, over the past 50 years, in regard to homosexuality. Secondly, data was gathered from two different age groups, who grew up in cultures with different attitudes towards sexual orientation. The first age group consisted of ten homosexual men from the baby boomer generation, while the second group was comprised of ten homosexual men in their early to mid 20s (the "echo generation"). Thirdly, using the Giorgi Method (Giorgi, 1985) of data analysis, the results from the two age groups were compared. The comparison demonstrated that there were far more similarities than differences between the groups in terms of the overall process of developing a sexual identity. The only significant difference between the two was that the younger group tended to start the coming out phase of their sexual identity development at an earlier age than the older group.

The results from this study provide strong phenomenological evidence that the internal process of developing a sexual identity among homosexual men is an enduring one that is not significantly affected by changes in culture. However, this study also showed that changes in culture may influence the age at which one goes through the coming out stage of this process, even if the essential elements of that process appear to be stable across time and culture. Such a finding lends support to an essentialist view of sexuality that is slightly interactionist in its consideration of the timing with which the sexual identity development process unfolds. Age-sensitive sexual identity development models, which are primarily based on essentialist and interactionist ideas, are therefore appropriate theoretical tools for use in the clinical setting when treating homosexual men.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hocoy, Dan
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 71/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: LGBTQ studies, Developmental psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Coming out, Essentialism vs constructionism, Gay men, LGBT studies, Phenomenology method, Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic therapy with gay men, Sexual identity development, Sexual orientation
Publication Number: 3406156
ISBN: 978-1-109-72823-1
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