The psychosexual development of urban lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths

Margaret Rosario, Heino F.L. Meyer-Bahlburg, Joyce Hunter, Theresa M. Exner, Marya Gwadz, Arden M. Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An examination of cognitive sexual orientation, sexual partner activity, and sexual identity was conducted among 76 lesbian/bisexual female youths and 80 gay/bisexual male youths (age range of 14-21 years) recruited from community-based or college organizations for lesbian/gay youths in New York City. Self-identification as lesbian/gay or bisexual changed over time; more than half the youths who identified as lesbian/gay at the interview had considered themselves bisexual in the past, and vice versa. A modal developmental sequence of cognitions and behaviors was found: Most youths first became aware of a cognitive sexual orientation (e.g., attractions and fantasies) toward the same or other sex, then considered a lesbian/gay or bisexual identity, and finally felt certain of a lesbian/gay or bisexual identity. Age at initiation of sexual activity with females or males was inconsistently related to this pattern. Significant gender differences indicated that females were older than males when they first considered (M years of 13.9 and 12.5, respectively) or were certain of (M years of 15.9 and 14. 6 years, respectively) being lesbian/gay. The majority of youths had a history of sexual activity with the same sex (88% of females and 95% of males) and the other sex (80% of females and 56% of males). The youths became sexually active during the early adolescent years, both with the same sex and the other sex. Their sexual practices, with the same and other sex, followed an initiation sequence beginning with manual (i.e., hand-genital) sex during the early teens and ending with anal practices during the middle and late teens. No significant gender differences were found in lifetime prevalence rates or ages at initiating sexual practices with the same sex. Gender differences were found for other-sex partners: Females became sexually active at an older age than did males, and more/females than males engaged in heterosexual activity. No significant differences in the psychosexual variables were found among Black, Hispanic, White, and youths of other ethnic backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-126
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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