Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2011 Volume 7 :: Article 4
2011 Volume 7, Article 4
The Effect of Religious Background on Sexual Orientation

Author: Jacob Felson (William Paterson University)

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Does religious background influence sexual orientation? Research on the etiology of sexual orientation has focused almost exclusively on biological influences; however, the evidence suggests that biological influences are not deterministic. Family socialization could also play a role. In particular, parentsí religion may have an impact, since religion has a powerful influence on attitudes about homosexuality. Using three nationally representative datasets, I examine the impact of parentsí religion on the sexual orientation of their offspring. The findings suggest that people from Jewish and secular backgrounds are more likely to report homosexual attraction, identity, and behavior than are people from other backgrounds. By contrast, individuals who were reared in conservative Protestant homes are least likely to report homosexual attraction, identity, or behavior. These findings are suggestive rather than definitive, since differences between groups are not consistent in magnitude or significance across datasets. The influence of religious background on sexual orientation generally appears to be modest, except in the case of Jewish heritage, the effect of which is particularly pronounced among women.

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