A Survey of Chinese University Students' Perceptions of and Attitudes towards Homosexuality

By Cao, Hui; Wang, Peng et al. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, July 2010 | Go to article overview
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A Survey of Chinese University Students' Perceptions of and Attitudes towards Homosexuality

Cao, Hui, Wang, Peng, Gao, Yuanyuan, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Homosexuality refers to sexual behavior or interest oriented towards the same sex, and a person with a homosexual orientation experiences sexual attraction only towards people of their sex. In 1973, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association removed homosexual acts from the disease classification system and redefined homosexuality as a person's sexual, mental, emotional, and social interest in a person of the same sex, which may or may not be manifested in their explicit behavior (American Psychological Association, 1980).

Perceptions about homosexuality refer to an individual's awareness or knowledge of concepts and ideas relating to homosexuals and their behavior. According to the results of a large sample survey in America in 1993, 6% of males surveyed were attracted to people of their own sex. And in China, Li (1998), a well-known sociologist, determined that between 2% and 4% of the Chinese population was homosexual based on a survey she carried out. Thus it is estimated that in China there are at least 30 million homosexual individuals. General perceptions about homosexuality have progressed from viewing homosexual behavior as criminal to believing that such behavior is not criminal, from viewing homosexual behavior as pathological to perceiving it as nonpathological. Previous researchers (e.g., Wang & Xu, 2004) have found that university students' perceptions and beliefs about homosexuality vary according to region, age, and cultural background.

The concept of attitude relates to positive or negative evaluation of humans, objects, or ideas, which can be reflected in an individual's cognitions, sensibilities, and behaviors. Previous researchers have suggested that individuals with higher education levels seem to be more rational, tolerant, and understanding towards homosexuality. As shown in the survey by Li (2008), the Chinese public's acceptance of homosexuality is increasing, and younger, unmarried, and better educated Chinese with higher social status and higher incomes and those who live in more prosperous cities have more tolerant attitudes. Among university students, undergraduates, unmarried students, females, and younger students also had more tolerant attitudes and it was found that there was a significant difference in the acceptance of homosexuality between those from urban and rural areas with those from urban areas being more tolerant and accepting.

In recent years, the number of researchers focusing on homosexuality has increased. There have been many academic studies examining homosexuals' mental health, legal status, and marriage status (Guo, 2009; Wu, 2009; Yang, 2009; Yu & Xiao, 2008; Zhu et al., 2008). However, the quality of life of the special group depends not only on their own ideas and the opinions of psychologists, but also on public acceptance. University students, as representatives of those with higher education, are likely to be more open-minded and accepting of new thoughts and opinions; and their perceptions and attitudes can promote positive perceptions and attitudes to homosexuality by the general public. Therefore, the present investigation of a group of university students will be helpful in revealing the perceptions and attitudes of the general public towards homosexuals, and thus providing suggestions about how to eliminate prejudice against homosexuals and develop relevant education in the future.



Using cluster sampling, 500 students were selected from the three universities and tested in several groups. A total of 451 (90.2%) valid questionnaires were collected. Of the participants, 232 (51.40%) were male and 219 (48.60%) were female; 151 (33.50%) were from urban and 300 (66.50%) rural areas; 273 (60.50%) were studying liberal arts and 178 (29.50%) were studying natural sciences; 137 (30.40%) came from families with only one child and 314 (69.60%) came from families with two or more children.

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