Psychosocial explanations of the development of a homosexual orientation versus a heterosexual orientation relate to life incidents, parenting patterns, or psychological attributes of the individual.

Psychosocial Theories

Bell and his colleagues (1981) conducted a comprehensive study about the develop­ment of sexual orientation. They used a sample of 979 homosexual men and women matched to a control group of 477 heterosexual people. All research subjects were asked questions about their childhood, adolescence, and sexual practices during 4-hour, face – to-face interviews. Bell then used sophisticated statistical techniques to analyze pos­sible causal factors in the development of homosexuality or heterosexuality. We cite this research frequently throughout this section because of its excellent methodology.

The “By Default” Myth

Some people believe that unhappy heterosexual experiences cause a person to become homosexual. Statements such as "All a lesbian needs is a good lay" or "He just needs to find the right woman" reflect the notion that homosexuality is a default choice for people who have not had satisfactory heterosexual experiences and relationships. Con­trary to this myth, Bell’s analysis of the data indicated that homosexual orientation reflects neither a lack of heterosexual experience nor a history of negative heterosexual experiences (Bell et al., 1981). Bell and his colleagues found that homosexual and het­erosexual groups did not differ in their frequency of dating during high school, but fewer homosexual subjects reported that they enjoyed heterosexual dating.