glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy





social sciences

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

Developmental Psychology  
page: 1  2  3  

Richard Troiden postulated a four-stage age-graded model of homosexuality identity development: (1) sensitization, the early feelings of being different; (2) identity confusion, teenage recognition; (3) identity assumption, the early process of acceptance that takes place in late adolescence; and (4) commitment, which is the acceptance of being gay and coming out to others. In Troiden's model, it is in this last stage that true intimacy can begin.

Sophie also outlined a four-stage coming out process. In her model there is (1) first awareness; (2) testing and exploration; (3) identity acceptance; and last (4) commitment.

Sponsor Message.

Hanley-Hackenbruch developed a 3-stage model, which includes the stages of (1) prohibition; (2) ambivalence/practicing or compulsion/exploration; and (3) consolidation/integration.

Finally, Eli Coleman described a five-stage model that starts with (1) pre-coming out, which is the similar to Troiden's first stage or early awareness; followed by (2) coming out, or admitting the experience of homosexual feelings; (3) exploration, which is the beginning of sexual experimentation; (4) first relationships; and (5) identity integration. The last stage is the process of integrating the gay self with other aspects of one's personality.

It is obvious that there are great similarities among these theories, regardless of the various nomenclatures. However, not all individuals will recognize their own "coming out" experiences in the terms employed by these models.

Limitations of the Models

Literature on sexual identity development has assumed a stable, core sexual orientation; consequently, most of the work has been focused on gay men and lesbians. Bisexual identity development has been under-examined. It has been suggested that bisexuals have a similar trajectory as lesbians and gay men, except that the last stage involves a "continued uncertainty," although perhaps "flexibility" might be a better term. Models of transgender identity development are still in their early stages.

Developmental models of sexual identity have come under some scrutiny regarding their cross-cultural applicability. They are probably best understood as illustrative of modern gay and lesbian identities within contemporary Western culture.

Clearly, as homosexuality becomes more socially acceptable and youth come out at younger ages, these stage models will need to be adapted accordingly, since normal sexual identity development always takes place within a socio-cultural and environmental matrix.

The Need for Additional Work

Additional work in glbtq psychological development is needed, particularly work that goes beyond identity formation and explores other significant stages in the experience of glbtq people. Areas needing greater study include how parenting, family formation, and aging processes differ for glbtq people, as well as questions about generativity for those choosing not to have children.

Developmental psychology's focus on the importance and impact of the coming out process is itself an indication of how glbtq people have been viewed as "outside" of normal developmental theory. What is needed is research on glbtq development that starts with the assumption that homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender expression are normal and healthy developmental processes and that goes beyond the formation of identity.

Arlene Istar Lev

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about Social Sciences

   Related Entries
social sciences >> Overview:  Adolescence

The ordinary sexual uncertainty and confusion confronted by all adolescents is compounded in glbtq adolescents by fears of being stigmatized and often by internalized homophobia.

literature >> Overview:  Coming Out Stories

The coming out experience is so important to gay men and lesbians that it is a primary focus of much of their literature.

social sciences >> Overview:  Coming Out

"Coming out" is the revelation or acknowledgment that one is a member of a sexual minority, a process that is at once personal and social and often political.

social sciences >> Overview:  Etiology

The earliest etiologies--or theories of causation--of homosexuality date from European antiquity, but the search for a universal etiology has intensified as homosexual behavior has come under the scrutiny of science.

social sciences >> Overview:  Family Therapy

Glbtq family therapy is a relatively new field that merges gay-affirmative therapy with family systems theory; its goal is to help glbtq people create and maintain healthy families.

social sciences >> Overview:  Intersexuality

Intersexuality (formerly referred to as hermaphroditism) is a congenital anomaly in which an individual's external genitalia or internal reproductive systems fall outside the norms for either male or female bodies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis, which began as a therapeutic procedure, ultimately became one of the most powerful methods of cultural analysis and critique of the twentieth-century.

social sciences >> Overview:  Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, the clinical process of treating mental and emotional health problems, has recently been energized by a movement to depathologize homosexuality and to enhance the dignity and self-respect of glbtq clients.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sociology

As an academic field, sociology has only recently begun to examine sexuality, and members of the profession are divided over glbtq concerns.

social sciences >> Freud, Sigmund

The founder of psychoanalysis and the discoverer of the unconscious, Sigmund Freud initiated a fundamental transformation in the self-understanding of Western men and women, including especially the role of sexuality.


Berk, Laura E. Development through the Lifespan. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001.

Carter, Betty, and Monica McGoldrick, eds. The Expanded Family Lifecycle: Individual, Family and Social Perspectives. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.

Cass, Vivienne C. "Homosexual Identity Formation: A Theoretical Model." Journal of Homosexuality 4 (1979): 219-35.

_____. "Sexual Orientation Identity Formation: A Western Phenomenon." Textbook of Homosexuality and Mental Health. Robert J. Cabaj and Terry S. Stein, eds. Washington, D. C.: American Psychiatric Association, 1998. 227-51.

Coleman, Eli. "Developmental Stages of the Coming Out Process." Journal of Homosexuality 7 (1981): 31-43.

D'Augelli, Anthony R., and Charlotte J. Patterson, eds. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Identities over the Lifespan: Psychological Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Germain, Carol B., and Martin Bloom. Human Behavior in the Social Environment: An Ecological View. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Green, Richard. The "Sissy Boy Syndrome" and the Development of Homosexuality. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987.

Lev, Arlene I. Transgender Emergence: Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Transgender People and their Families. Binghamton, N. Y.: Haworth Press, 2004.

Rutter, Marjorie, and Michael Rutter. Developing Minds: Challenge and Continuity across the Life Span. London: Penguin, 1992.

Savin-Williams, Ritch C., and Kenneth M. Cohen, eds. The Lives of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals: Children to Adults. Fort Worth, Tex.: Harcourt Brace, 1995.

Troiden, Richard. Gay and Lesbian Identity. New York: General Hall, 1988.


    Citation Information
    Author: Lev, Arlene Istar  
    Entry Title: Developmental Psychology  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 3, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.