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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Study raises 'misplaced sensationalism' fears

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 23rd July 2010

Kevin Hague
Gay Green MP Kevin Hague is concerned about the sensationalism aspect of a study which associates being gay with childhood abuse.

According to a media release from Otago University, Canterbury, the research essentially finds 'homosexuals, bisexuals and those who identify as heterosexual but who have had same-sex encounters are more likely to have experienced abuse during their childhood'.

It's based on the New Zealand Mental Health Survey, where almost 13,000 people aged 16 and over were interviewed face-to-face. The study has been published in the international journal, Archives of Sexual Behaviour.

Hague says it's a good size survey, which does find some statistically significant, though weak, associations. However he says there is no plausible mechanism to link the two causally that is consistent with other research findings.

He is worried it will be used by some to say: "See? The same sex behaviour was caused by the childhood trauma, so good therapy can make them normal again".

ANew Zealand Herald story quotes Family First director Bob McCoskrie as saying "there should always be concerns around the possible outcomes of childhood abuse".

Hague says McCoskrie has made exactly the connection he feared people would make, that childhood trauma is causing same-sex behaviour and attraction.

"And why that's important of course is that there is a kind of 'fundy' agenda around them going hard out to try and demonstrate that sexual orientation is not an innate human characteristic. Effectively they deny that sexual orientation exists, all that matters is identity and behaviour - and that people choose their identity and behaviour or it's caused by environmental effects," he says.

"And this goes further, it's suggesting that it's childhood trauma that's causing this 'illness' that we have."

Hague believes the study's methodology may have had an impact. He says when dealing with a face-to face interviewer there is a high likelihood those have had a same-sex experience won't report it, because they are embarrassed or shy or do not trust the interviewer sensitive information.

"Those who in that situation choose to disclose to the interviewer are also those who are more likely to disclose other sensitive information about themselves, such as being abused as a child or witnessing domestic violence, those type of thing, that the researchers try and draw this concern around."

Hague is sure the researchers have worked conscientiously and he suspects the findings were presented in the way they were by "whoever it is at the university who tries to generate publicity around research that's been done".

"Fundamentally there's a great baseline of data that's incorporated here and it's important that we don't simply trash the study, because of the way it's been spun."

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