Sexual Orientation and Associated Characteristics among North American Academic Psychiatrists
Klitzman, Robert, Bodkin, J. Alexander, Pope, Harrison G., Jr., The Journal of Sex Research
Over the past several decades, a number of studies have investigated the psychological and sociological characteristics of mental health practitioners (Armor & Klerman, 1968; Bodkin, Klitzman, & Pope, 1995; Monk & Thomas, 1973). These studies have found wide variations among mental health practitioners in attitudes and approaches toward psychiatric treatment and etiology. Over time, these findings have documented a shift among professionals from psychological approaches, dominated by Freudian perspectives, to biological approaches and theoretical understandings of disorders. None of these studies, however, have assessed whether differences in sexual orientation among mental health professionals are associated with differences in treatment approaches, attitudes, and perspectives, or other professional and personal characteristics.
This issue is of particular interest because research over recent years on the etiology of homosexuality has shifted from psychological to biological explanations and has received much attention in the popular press and elsewhere (Gladue, Green, & Hellman, 1984; Hamer, Hu, Magnuson, Hu, & Pattatucci, 1993; Levay, 1991; Pillard & Bailey, 1995). Controversy on this issue continues among gays and lesbians, with many preferring social constructionist explanations over biological explanations of sexual orientation.
In light of these issues, it is not clear whether gay psychiatrists, given the stigma they have faced and their perceptions of not fitting in with "straight" society, view or treat psychiatric illness differently (e.g., more or less biologically) than their colleagues. It is also not clear whether gay psychiatrists are more or less concerned with orthodoxy, socially desirable behaviors, or humanistic approaches than are their heterosexual colleagues. These considerations are of interest, as gays and lesbians have become more visible as a group among mental-health providers and patients. Clinics specializing in the mental-health needs of the gay and lesbian community have been established in cities across the country. Increasing numbers of mental-health practitioners have also identified themselves as gay and lesbian and have written about their perspectives in the field (Isay, 1989, 1995). Yet, to date there have been no studies comparing gay and lesbian psychiatrists to their straight colleagues in professional or other personal characteristics.
We examined these issues among academic psychiatrists because they are at the forefront of biological and other recent advances in the field. Moreover, academic psychiatrists are an important group, as they very much influence the direction of the field by teaching medical students and residents, conducting research, and editing journals. We chose academic institutions located in different regions and in different types of geographic areas to sample broadly within this population.
We sent a brief, anonymous questionnaire to 972 North American academic psychiatrists at five leading academic medical centers in 1990. The survey instrument (see Appendix) contained questions concerning demographic features, various personal and professional attributes, and assessments of biological versus psychological orientation. To minimize response bias, we did not inform respondents of our specific hypotheses. We stipulated in a cover letter that to protect …
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Publication information: Article title: Sexual Orientation and Associated Characteristics among North American Academic Psychiatrists. Contributors: Klitzman, Robert - Author, Bodkin, J. Alexander - Author, Pope, Harrison G., Jr. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Sex Research. Volume: 35. Issue: 3 Publication date: August 1998. Page number: 282+. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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