By James Tillman

DUNEDIN, New Zealand, July 26, 2010 (—A recent Otago University study has found that homosexual or bisexual individuals are more likely to have undergone a variety of of traumas in childhood, including sexual assault, rape, violence, and witnessing violence in the home.

“People who either identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual, or have had a same-sex encounter or relationship, tend to come from more disturbed backgrounds,” said Research Associate Professor Elisabeth Wells.

The study analyzed results from a New Zealand Mental Health study that surveyed about 13,000 people between 2003 and 2004. 98% of the participants in the study identified themselves as heterosexual; 0.8% identified as homosexual; 0.6% identified as bisexual; and 0.3% identified as “something else.”

Of people who reported certain traumatic childhood events, 15% were not heterosexual; of those without such experiences, only 5% were not heterosexual, suggesting that such experiences tripled the chance of later professing homosexual or bisexual inclinations.

Some homosexualist leaders took issue with the study’s findings: Tony Simpson, chairman of the national homosexualist group Rainbow Wellington, said that the research should not be taken to mean that homosexuals are not born that way. “I have no doubt that the religious right will leap to the conclusion that this goes to show conclusively that homosexuals are made rather than born,” he said.

Wells attempted to assuage fears over the study’s conclusions.

“I suspect there might be some gay and lesbian people who will be indignant, but it is not my intention to anger them,” she said. “You could say that if someone was sexually abused as a child, chooses to live as a homosexual and lives life well, then that is not a bad thing. But if they are living a homosexual life and regretting it, that is another matter.”

Although sexual or physical abuse in childhood was associated with adult homosexuality, other traumatic experiences, such as the sudden death of a loved one or serious childhood illness or accident, were only slightly associated with non-heterosexual identity or behaviour.

Of females who self-identified as homosexual, more than 40% had been married and had children, whereas 13% of male homosexuals had done so. Over 80% of those who identified as bisexual were women.

The association between child abuse and later homosexual identification is not young.

One 1992 study found that 37% of homosexual and bisexual men attending sexually transmitted disease clinics had been encouraged or forced to have sexual contact before age 19 with an older or more powerful partner. The median age of first contact was 10 years old.