Having older brothers a factor in boys becoming gay

Published on June 27, 2006 at 5:59 AM · No Comments

New research says that boys have a greater chance of becoming gay if they have older brothers.

Anthony Bogaert, of Brock University, Ontario, Canada, says a man's sexual orientation may be determined before he is born by the maternal response to carrying male foetuses.

Bogaert says the research provides the strongest evidence yet of a biological basis for male homosexuality and supports the theory of a pre-natal origin to sexual orientation development in men.

A decade or so ago researchers discovered that the more older brothers a boy had, the greater chance he had of being homosexual.

This was put down at the time to the psychological effect of having older brothers on the family dynamics, which possibly affected sexual orientation.

According to the Canadian researchers for each brother that precedes him, a boy's likelihood of growing up gay increases by a third.

But this apparently only applies to brothers with the same biological mother and is not the case where there are older adopted or stepbrothers with a different mother.

But the increased chance of homosexuality applied even where men had older full brothers who had been raised separately in a different home, offering further evidence for a biological effect.

The findings suggest that in a proportion of gay men, their orientation is heavily influenced by biological factors they experience before they are born, and not by the way they are brought up or choices they make later in life.

The findings clearly indicate that conditions in the womb before birth, and not the subsequent family environment, are responsible for whether a boy becomes gay.

The theory that having a large number of older brothers might influence male sexuality is not new and was first suggested in 1997.

A study led by Ray Blanchard, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, found that gay men were more likely to have lots of elder brothers than both straight men and lesbians.

Previous research has also suggested that genetics and the womb environment can have a major impact on sexual preferences in both men and women.

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