New Zealanders who
identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual, or who have
had a same-sex encounter or relationship, tend to come from
more disturbed backgrounds, a University of Otago researcher
Information extracted from 13,000 face-to-face interviews
clearly showed those with same-sexual or bisexual orientation
were more likely to have experienced negative events in
childhood, Associate Prof Elisabeth Wells said yesterday.
People who had experienced sexual abuse as children were
three times more likely to identity themselves as homosexual
or bisexual than those who had not experienced abuse, she
said. Also, the more adverse events someone experienced in
childhood, the more likely they were to belong to one of the
"non-exclusively heterosexual" groups.
Associations between adverse events and sexuality group were
found for sexual assault, rape, violence to the child and for
witnessing violence in the home.
Other adverse events, such as the sudden death of a loved
one, serious childhood illness or accident, were only
slightly associated with non-heterosexual identity or
Prof Wells, a consultant statistician based in the department
of public health and general practice at the university's
Christchurch campus, further analysed answers to a series of
questions about sexual orientation and home life asked as
part of a major New Zealand mental health survey carried out
in 2003 and 2004.
She said there was no way of knowing from her study why there
was a link between negative events in childhood and same-sex
"We took a life-course approach, looking at where people had
come from and where they have got to. But there was no
opportunity to ask people why they [identified as homosexual
or bisexual] and whether they thought that was linked to
their childhood experiences."