What can gay and straight twins tell us about sexuality?

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New research at the University of Essex seeks twins to help understand how childhood experiences shape our sexual orientation and well-being.

Many of the ways in which we behave and express ourselves develop in our early childhood. These early behaviours are linked to both our sexuality and well-being during adulthood. A lot of research in the past has focused on the part played by our genes in this outcome. In a new study, however, the University of Essex is attempting to uncover what social experiences during childhood make us become the people we are. The study will focus on twins and the influences of upbringing on sexual orientation and current life satisfaction.

In order to understand how early childhood experiences affect our sexuality and health, the brand new study at the University of Essex seeks identical twins, with one being gay or bisexual and the other being straight. Tuesday Watts, a PhD student, along with sexuality scientist Dr Gerulf Rieger, will head the research. An associated study at Kings College London, conducted by Liam Timmins and Dr Qazi Rahman is also taking place.

Previous research has already tried to understand how our sexual orientation is linked to childhood experiences. However, these past studies have heavily focused on negative experiences during childhood and neglected the possibility that people may have had positive interactions with parents, siblings or peers that have shaped their sexual attractions and identities. Moreover, previous studies have focused on unrelated men and women to understand how upbringing influences sexuality. It is very difficult, however, to understand the impact of childhood experiences if we look at unrelated people who can be different for so many reasons. In this new study, the researchers will investigate the impact of early interactions in pairs of identical twins with one being gay or bisexual and the other being straight. The researchers will also seek twins who are both gay or bisexual. By comparing these twin pairs, the researchers will have the ability to explore how the social environment can have an impact on sexual orientation and well-being, above and beyond our genes.

Our sexuality forms a huge part of who we are, yet, we know so little about where it comes from. Your contribution will therefore tremendously help the researchers to understand how this part of ourselves is shaped by the experiences we have in early life.

All participants will be paid £100 for completing all of the study components. For further information, please click here

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