REVIEW of the study, Savin-Williams, RC and Ream, GL (2007), Prevalence and Stability of Sexual Orientation Components During Adolescence and Young Adulthood, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 385-394.

 by Neil Whitehead, PhD

An explanation for the concept of sexual orientation, and the 75% figure as mentioned in the press release referenced as #6:

In 2007, Savin-Williams and Ream conducted a large longitudinal study that documented changes in attraction so great between the ages of 16 and 17 that they questioned whether the concept of sexual orientation had any meaning for adolescents with homosexual attractions.  Seventy-five percent of adolescents who had some initial homosexual attraction between the ages of 17-21 changed to experience heterosexual attraction only.

In the abstract the authors raise the possibility to “abandon the general notion of sexual orientation” as one option.

The figure of 75% was derived by me from tables 1-3 in the paper, after consultation with Ream because there is a printing error in the paper.  The figure is shown graphically in figure 35 of chapter 12 of My Genes Made Me Do It!  The part of the diagram to look at is the bottom same-sex-only row for males. Those having only same-sex romantic attractions at age 17 change considerably at age 22 and if you start with 100 with only same-sex attraction, 75 of them at age 22 have only opposite sex attraction. A very few retain same-sex attraction or have both attractions (in that particular year).

I attach a screen shot of that particular part of the diagram which will be in that clearer form in edition 4 of the book, which should be up on the site within a week.

You should note the context of this paper. Respondents were asked if they had a romantic attraction in the years of asking, that is at age 17 and age 22. This depends on availability of someone to be an object of that attraction.   This could range all the way from a crush to sexual involvement. For those who did not answer at the second age, it is quite possible that there was noon suitable around.  That is actually quite unlikely in the large social environment of a school, but could be more likely at age 22 if there is no tertiary education, and the person does not have access to the gay milieu.

The authors are aware of the various interpretations of the data, and think that questions should be better framed. They have subsequently been involved in discussion of what this all means, and is this instability a real reflection of the situation. However, the instability of teenage sexual feelings is proverbial and has been known for many decades, and even back to the time of Kinsey.

Another conclusion is that those with opposite-sex attraction will overwhelmingly stay that way.