For more than 25 years Ritch Savin-Williams has been listening to young people talk about what it is like to grow up. His ground-breaking research on adolescent dominance hierarchies, self-esteem development, friendship patterns, and sexuality has appeared in nearly 100 scholarly papers and seven books.
So when Savin-Williams, professor and chair of the Department of Human Development, began analyzing his interviews with 78 college women for his next book,... And Then I Kissed Her: Young Women's Stories, he wasn't expecting the existing scholarship on adolescent development to be challenged.
"These young women blew to bits how scholars have conventionally understood the progression by which members of sexual minorities develop from childhood to adulthood," Savin-Williams explains. "There is little relationship between those stages of development and the way young women are leading their lives today."
By stages of development Savin-Williams is referring to the series of events included in "coming-out" models of sexual identity development. For well over two decades, scholars have held that sexual-minority youth follow a linear development sequence that begins with an individual's first awareness of same-sex attractions and culminates many years later in a celebration of their sexual identity in a larger social context, typically the political arena--or as today, in applying for a marriage license.
But this group of Savin-Williams's …