Sunday, January 5, 2020

From 2007... Statutory sex crime relationships between juveniles & adults: How to prevent youth from becoming involved & how to prevent adults from entering relationships

From 2007... Statutory sex crime relationships between juveniles and adults: A review of social scientific research. Denise A. Hines, David Finkelhor. Aggression and Violent Behavior, Volume 12, Issue 3, May–June 2007, Pages 300-314.

Abstract: This paper reviews the social scientific literature about non-forcible, voluntary sexual relationships between adults and juveniles, what we have termed “statutory sex crime relationships” or “statutory relationships.” In the available literature, the topic is poorly defined and the research weak, but there are clearly a diverse variety of contexts and dynamics to such relationships. We detail a wide-ranging set of issues on which more research is needed to guide social policy and practice.

Keywords: Sexual abuseStatutory rapeCompliant victimJuvenile victimRape

6. Research agenda

Public policy on the topic of statutory relationships could clearly benefit from a considerably more detailed understanding of the nature of these relationships as well as from an understanding about the capacities of youth. What follows is a discussion of some of the research that might benefit some of the various policy issues that confront this topic.

6.1. Setting statutory parameters

Some may feel that the prohibitions and legal restrictions that apply to statutory relationships flow from moral principles that are not open to empirical investigation. For those open to considering an empirical perspective on the matter, the age of consent laws appear to be based on presumptions about several possibly researchable issues. These concern the developmental progression of a person's ability to consent to sex: (1) what young people of different ages know and understand about sexual behavior and sexual relationships; (2) how young people of different ages make decisions in general and particularly about sex; and (3) what the power and influence dynamics are in relationships between persons of different ages, and in particular relationships that become sexual; that is, under what conditions (age being a central one) youth are easily manipulated, or have difficulty acting as full decision-making parties in their own interest.

Knowledge. Some research exists about young people's sexual knowledge. For example, the average young adolescent has poor knowledge regarding sex: In one national survey, 13-year-olds did not know the most effective pregnancy prevention method, and only 10% of girls and 7% of boys understood the female fertility cycle and its effects on the likelihood of getting pregnant (Albert, Brown, & Flanigan, 2003). Thus, only a small minority of younger adolescents have the knowledge that is necessary to make informed decisions regarding sexual behavior, particularly sexual relationships with adults. However, to our knowledge, there are no studies that track the developmental progression of this knowledge in a detailed way. Studies also need to look not just at the average level of knowledge, but the level of knowledge among those with the least knowledge, and perhaps, as well, among some of the groups who might be most vulnerable to exploitation, such as youth who were sexually abused at an earlier age. As Guerrina (1998) has argued, some adolescent girls who are involved in adult/adolescent sex have had previous sexual experiences, which should give them the ability to make informed decisions regarding sexual activity. However, she further argues that a girl's sexual knowledge may not be a good proxy for her maturity. For example, a girl with a history of sexual abuse may have knowledge of sex that increase her capability to make an informed decision regarding sexual relations; however, her history of sexual abuse may also make her extremely vulnerable and may cause her to act in a sexually provocative manner in order to attain affection, love, and attention, a situation which makes her too immature to make such decisions (Guerrina, 1998).

Decision-making ability. There is some literature concerning the ability of youth to make decisions at different stages of development. For example, some research has established that there is a delayed development of the prefrontal cortex, a seat of decision-making, in adolescents (Segalowitz & Davies, 2004). In other research, adolescents who have sex often do not perceive it as a decision that they made, merely something that “just happened” (BrooksGunn & Furstenberg Jr., 1989; Chilman, 1983), suggesting perhaps difficulties in projecting sequences of activity into the future (Brooks-Gunn & Furstenberg Jr., 1989; Coley & Chase-Lansdale, 1998).

Drawing policy conclusions from such findings is not easy, however. The potential vulnerability to prejudgment on the basis of other values are illustrated by the contrasting conclusions of those concerned about consent to sex with those concerned about consent to abortion (American Psychological Association, 2000) or youth culpability for criminal behavior (Donovan, 1997; Lanning, 2002). Some of the same evidence marshaled to support youth capacity to decide to have an abortion might equivalently be cited in support of youth capacity to consent to sex with an adult. It may indeed be the case that decision-making capacity does vary from context to context. For example, the interpersonal pressures or likelihood of manipulation may be greater in the sexual relationship than in the abortion decision.  However, this illustrates how research about general decision making capacities may be inadequate to the problem, and research may need to look at how adolescents reason and decide about very specific domains of behavior.

Relationship dynamics, power, and influence. Some researchers and those who deal with statutory rape cases have described a seduction and grooming process to which adolescents presumably are subjected (e.g., Lanning, 2002).  They argue that the seducers treat the adolescents better than other adults in their lives have. For example, the adults listen to the adolescents' problems and concerns and fulfill their emotional, physical, and sexual needs. As testimony to the adults' skillfulness, the adolescents often willingly return for sex. According to accounts of other dynamics, adolescents (particularly boys) are typically sexually curious, rebellious, inexperienced, and easily sexually aroused.  This makes them targets for adults who wish to sexually seduce them, and once seduced, easily convinced to return.  Eventually, the adolescents may initiate sexual contact themselves, which may create the impression that they consented to this process. In addition, some adolescents are willing to trade sex for attention, gifts, and affection, and will deny that they are victims (Lanning, 2002).

Grover (2003) uses dissonance theory to explain why an adolescent who has gone through this seduction process nevertheless would argue that s/he freely consented to the relationship. She argues that adolescents perceive that they were compliant in the sexual acts because they were given cues by the adult to imply that they had a choice (i.e., no force was used). The adult gradually convinces the adolescent through steps over the course of time to “consent” to the sexual relationship. Because they falsely perceive that they have chosen the situation, they assert that they consented to the relationship.

Although many adolescents may be subjected to such a grooming process, there is evidence that not all are. In fact, some adolescents have sex with the adults during their first meeting (e.g., Sandfort, 1984), and a minority of adolescent girls who are involved with adults state that they sought out adults because they wanted to learn about sex from an older, experienced, more knowledgeable partner (Higginson, 1999); they believed that their first sexual experiences would be much more pleasurable this way, and many of these girls admitted to seducing reluctant older men to reach these goals. Other girls have reported that they and their female peers seek out older men because their male peers are not considered an acceptable dating pool; they feel that they are too mature to be dating someone their own age, and that older men would be able to provide for their sexual and other needs much better (Higginson, 1999). Additional research is needed to describe the full range of dynamics in the variety of statutory relationships.

Another issue that needs to be resolved empirically is the nature of the power differential in these relationships.  Some argue that the adults hold all power, which precludes the adolescent from making a free choice (Grover, 2003; Guerrina, 1998; Watkins & Bentovim, 2000); others argue that even if the adult does have the power, that does not mean that s/he will misuse the power (Sandfort, 1984), and still others argue that sometimes the adolescent has power over the adult (Money & Weinrich, 1983). No empirical studies have been done to our knowledge to resolve this argument concerning power perceptions and realities in these relationships and how the power differentials affect the ability of the adolescent to make decisions. Because these relationships tend to be furtive and stigmatized, their uncontaminated dynamics may be hard to study. Other things that need to be looked at concern how these dynamics differ depending on the age difference between the partners, itself an important matter that can be regulated in sexual consent statutes.

Conclusion. Even with considerably more information about the developmental progression of knowledge, decision-making ability and relationship dynamics, it might still be very difficult to apply this information to the practical problem of establishing age of consent limits. An example of the difficulty is posed by the problem of gender equity. Suppose it were to be found that younger boys were considerably less subject to manipulation in statutory relationships than younger girls. It seems unlikely and may be even constitutionally impossible that policymakers would craft laws that would then set different standards according to gender. Nonetheless, the policy obstacles should not inhibit the pursuit of more information on these topics.

7. Prevention/intervention research

7.1. How to prevent youth from becoming involved
Advocates have argued for a variety of programs and policies that would discourage young people from becoming involved in relationships with adults (Elstein & Davis, 1997). Two lines of research might be very useful to help build and enhance such initiatives. One would focus on understanding the main risk factors for and reasons why youth become involved in such relationships with a specific eye to trying to target vulnerable youth and meet their needs and deficits in an alternative way.

A variety of suggested risk factors and reasons need to be fully explored:
• Youth involved in conflict with their families who may be looking for alliances with adults to help them gain independence more completely than they could through relationships with other youth.
• Youth who are isolated from peers or have other barriers to peer involvement that may orient them more toward adult relationships.
• Youth who have extremely limited career or employment opportunities, for whom relationships with adults may provide a quicker route to motherhood or family formation.
• Youth who are sexually precocious, who may gravitate to adults for sexual opportunities not available among their peers.
• Youth who are gay, confused about sexual orientation or have other sexual concerns that may make them vulnerable to offers from adults to help mentor them around these concerns by engaging with them sexually.

A second line of research would try to discover what kinds of information or messages are most persuasive in discouraging positive attitudes about or openness to cross-generational relationships. For example, would it be useful to emphasize to young people that such relationships are illegal and may result in prosecution and incarceration for the adults? Or, does such a message fail to persuade because it seems authoritarian, reminds youth of their immaturity and even adds to the allure of such relationships? By contrast, would it be useful to emphasize that such relationships generally do not work out or may involve deceptions by the adult? Focus groups, surveys and evaluation studies of prevention efforts should all be directed at identifying the components of an effective prevention message.

7.2. How to prevent adults from entering relationships
The adults who become involved with youth in statutory relationships may well be a diverse group, if the research reviewed here and experience in regard to other sexual offenders is any guide (Lanning, 2002). Although there may be some statutory offenders who bear resemblance to child molesters, who have compulsive or predatory sexual patterns, and who use deception, there may likewise be others who are dissimilar to other categories of more conventional sex offenders. Nonetheless, there have been few, if any, studies of these adults to catalog their diversity and explore the question of whether there are important differentiable subtypes. Such studies would be useful to aid prevention efforts. As has been tried with other sex offenders against children, it may even be useful to talk with statutory sex offenders explicitly about factors that might have inhibited their behaviors (Conte, Wolfe, & Smith, 1989).

An issue of considerable potential for prevention concerns offenders who were frankly ignorant of the laws criminalizing adult–youth sexual behavior, that is, individuals for whom reinforcement or knowledge about laws and norms might have been a deterrent. Social surveys may also be useful to ascertain whether there are some groups in society among whom the norms are supportive of such behavior. As with prevention messages for youth themselves, it may be useful to test a variety of messages with adults in focus groups, surveys and evaluation studies, to investigate which may be most effective in discouraging a proclivity toward sexual involvement with youth. Such studies should look at different subcultural groups and adults of different ages. In addition, it is probably important to look at these issues with gay adults, who may have a different set of rationales and concerns, although such research obviously needs a great deal of sensitivity to avoid reinforcing the unsubstantiated stereotype that in comparison to heterosexual adults, gay adults are more predatory toward youth.

7.3. How to minimize iatrogenic impacts on youth
A policy issue of considerable interest is how to make sure that criminal justice interventions do not cause additional harm to victims. Some of the potential for iatrogenic harm that is widely acknowledged in the sexual assault area (Jones, Cross, Walsh, & Simone, 2005) would certainly be expected in regard to statutory victims. Because some of these youth may have considerable allegiance to the offenders, they may not see themselves as victims, may see the criminal justice system as agents for their parents and as limiting their own autonomy, and may experience interventions as highly coercive and hostile. Intervention may also create considerable stigma for the youth, including such humiliations as outing their sexual orientation, and may cause them to feel guilt and self-blame for actions taken against the offender. Observers have noted that adolescents who are brought into the judicial system as part of these investigations may embellish or change their stories to please the legal authorities (Berliner, 2002), to adhere to societal expectations and/or to avoid embarrassment (Lanning, 2002). Thus, “they inaccurately claim they were afraid, ignorant, or indoctrinated” (Lanning, 2002, p. 6). However, no systematic research has been conducted to verify whether and how often adolescents behave this way.

Research could fruitfully be directed to identifying the most alienating and stressful components of criminal justice intervention for youth involved in statutory relationships. Such research could be the basis for designing interventions that mitigate such harms. Given that these youth frequently have additional problems, the research might suggest adjuncts to criminal justice interventions that may help the youth and improve cooperation with authorities.

There seems to be a genetic predisposition to following a vegetarian diet; & a link between vegetarianism and political ideology may exist because of a shared genetic predisposition

Where the Rubber Meats the Road: Relationships between Vegetarianism and Socio-political Attitudes and Voting Behavior. John B. Nezlek & Catherine A. Forestell. Jul 15 2019. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, Volume 58, 2019 - Issue 6, pp 548.559.

ABSTRACT: Previous research has found that omnivores are more hierarchical and more authoritarian than vegetarians. To examine if such differences extend to political behavior a sample of American undergraduates (N = 1211) described their diets, endorsement of social policies, political orientation, and voting behavior. Consistent with previous research, we found that compared to vegetarians and semi-vegetarians, omnivores favored conservative policies more strongly and liberal polices less strongly, identified more closely with the Republican party and less closely with the Democratic party, were less liberal, approved of Donald Trump’s performance more, and were more likely to have voted for Trump.

KEYWORDS: Vegetarianism, voting behavior, conservatism, liberalism, Trump

Discussion As expected, vegetarians and semi-vegetarians were more politically liberal than omnivores, differences that are consistent with previous research. Moreover, our results suggest that consumption of red meat is associated with these differences. Vegetarians and semi-vegetarians did not differ on any of the measures we analyzed. The power of this comparison was .67 for a medium (d = .5) effect size (Faul et al. 2009). Why was the consumption of (red) meat associated with more politically conservative attitudes and behaviors? We believe that the differences between omnivores and vegetarians reflect the operation of the processes described by Dhont and Hodson (2014): “Rightwing adherents do not simply consume more animals because they enjoy the taste of meat, but because doing so supports dominance ideologies and resistance to cultural change” (p. 12). For example, research has shown that relationships between speciesism and conservative attitudes are driven by dominance orientation (e.g., Costello and Hodson 2010; Dhont, Hodson, and Leite 2016). The differences we found between omnivores and vegetarians in the endorsement of various social policies were clearly consistent with omnivores being more resistant to change and more supportive of hierarchies than vegetarians. Such differences are also consistent with the possibility that vegetarians restrict their meat intake not because they dislike the taste of meat but because of there are concerned about animal welfare. Such concerns can go beyond issue of hygiene and methods of slaughter and can include beliefs that as sentient beings, animals should not be killed for food. The present results extend previous research in two ways. They expand the domain of attitudes and behaviors that are associated with the consumption of red meat. Compared to vegetarians and semi-vegetarians, omnivores both endorsed more conservative policies more strongly and endorsed more liberal policies less strongly, indicating that diet is associated with attitudes across the political spectrum. Perhaps more important, because voting is where the “rubber meets the road” in terms of politics, demonstrating that the voting behavior of omnivores is different than the voting behavior of vegetarians and semivegetarians extends existing research into a critical domain. Consistent with our results, Wrenn (2017) found that vegans were much less likely to vote for Trump than the norm (4% vs. 46% overall), but Wrenn did not study semi-vegetarians, a group whose intake has been shown to be motivated more by weight control or health reasons rather than ethical reasons compared to strict vegetarians (Forestell, Spaeth, and Kane 2012). This difference may explain why a lower (though not significantly lower) proportion of semi-vegetarians than vegetarians endorsed liberal attitudes. Whether vegetarians’ political attitudes and behaviors are associated with the degree to which their motivations are health- or ethically-based is a topic for future research. The present results also increase the diversity of the database describing relationships between vegetarianism and political beliefs. Much of the research on this topic has been done in Europe or Australasia. Although culturally the US has much in common with these countries, there are differences among them, and finding that relationships between diet and political orientation in an American sample are similar to the relationships found in other countries supports the validity of these relationships. Nevertheless, the sample examined in the present study may limit the generalizability of the results. As discussed by Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan (2010), the present sample came from a WEIRD culture (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic). Also, similar to previous research on this topic, the study was conducted in a society in which people are “vegetarians of choice” rather than “vegetarians of necessity” (Leahy, Lyons, and Tol 2010). The majority of the world’s vegetarians do not have the resources to buy meat, and so it is possible that the type of relationships we found are limited to individuals who choose to be vegetarian. Finally, a smaller percent of the present sample voted for Trump (17%) than the percent of college-educated voters in the general US population (36%, Pew Research Center 2018), and the sample consisted of young adults. Nevertheless, the present results comport with the results of previous research suggesting that the selective nature of the sample did not skew the results in a specific direction. Such questions can be resolved only by examining the same processes in larger, more representative samples. There is also the issue of the extent to which the results found in our sample of collegians can be generalized to people of other ages. Following Erik Erikson many believe that adolescence (and to some extent early adulthood) is a time when people search for their identities, at least in Western cultures. In terms of political ideology and voting behavior this is often referred to as the “impressionable years hypothesis,” which is accompanied by the “aging-stability hypothesis” (stability increases with age) (e.g., Alwin and Krosnick 1991). Support for these complementary mechanisms is mixed (e.g., Alwin and Krosnick 1991). For example, Markus (1986) found that the political attitudes of a sample of young adults was no more or no less stable over 17 years than the attitudes of their parents were. Perhaps the most intriguing perspective on this issue is the work of Verhulst and colleagues (e.g., Verhulst, Eaves, and Hatemi 2012). They suggest that political ideology reflects genetic predispositions (at least in part), and to the extent this is true, political ideology may be as stable in early adulthood as it is at any other stage of life assuming that genetic predispositions are stable. There is the issue of how well a distinction based upon dietary habit predicts the types of socio-political attitudes we examined. Although the differences in means for some measures were meaningful in terms of scale points (e.g., over a half point difference between omnivores and vegetarians for strength of identification with the Democratic party), for most measures, the ANOVAs that compared the three groups accounted for about 4–5% of the variance, certainly not large effects. This was due to the variance in these outcome measures within the groups. For example, although vegetarians identified more closely with the Democratic party than omnivores, 46% of omnivores identified with the Democratic party either closely or very closely. On the other hand, omnivores were approximately three times more likely than vegetarians to have voted for Trump. Although this ratio needs to be understood within the context of the number of participants who voted for Trump (77 of 468), it is possible that the individual differences that are associated with an omnivorous diet when considered collectively may have had a stronger influence on how people voted. This is perhaps because voting is a decision that is based on the collective influence of a set of individual factors that may vary in strength. The present study was intended primarily as an empirically focused extension of research on the socio-political correlates of following a vegetarian diet. We believe that we accomplished this goal, albeit with the limitations imposed by our sample. As noted previously, the available data suggest that vegetarians have a more pro-social orientation than omnivores (Ruby 2012). Such a pro-social orientation is probably the driving force behind the political ideologies and behaviors of vegetarians. Even so, such an explanation still begs the question of why vegetarians are more prosocial than omnivores.

Recent research suggests that there may be a genetic predisposition to following a vegetarian diet (e.g., Ye et al. 2017). If this is the case, then relationships between vegetarianism and political ideology may exist because of a shared genetic predisposition. This is similar to the argument Verhulst and colleagues have made regarding relationships between personality and political beliefs. Clearly, answering such questions requires research that is designed to address them specifically.

Check also Vegetarianism as a Social Identity. John B Nezlek, Catherine A Forestell. Current Opinion in Food Science, December 20 2019.

And Gender Differences in Vegetarian Identity: How Men and Women Construe Meatless Dieting. Daniel L.Rosenfeld. Food Quality and Preference, November 28 2019, 103859.

And Taste and health concerns trump anticipated stigma as barriers to vegetarianism. Daniel L.Rosenfeld, A. JanetTomiyama. Appetite, Volume 144, January 1 2020, 104469.

And Relationships between Vegetarian Dietary Habits and Daily Well-Being. John B. Nezlek, Catherine A. Forestell & David B. Newman. Ecology of Food and Nutrition,

And Psychology of Men & Masculinity: Eating meat makes you sexy / Conformity to dietary gender norms and attractiveness. Timeo, S., & Suitner, C. (2018). Eating meat makes you sexy: Conformity to dietary gender norms and attractiveness. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(3), 418-429.

And Baby Animals Less Appetizing? Tenderness toward Baby Animals and Appetite for Meat. Jared Piazza, Neil McLatchie & Cecilie Olesen. Anthrozoƶs, Volume 31, 2018 - Issue 3, Pages 319-335.

Infection and Ideology: Perceived Vulnerability to Disease Predicts Political Conservatism

Jacob Appleby, Christopher M. Federico, Joseph A. Vitriol, Allison L. Williams. 2020. “Infection and Ideology- Perceived Vulnerability to Disease Predicts Political Conservatism.” PsyArXiv. January 4. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Recent research on the behavioral immune system suggests that perceived vulnerability to disease is associated with greater ingroup preference, conformity, and support for established cultural practices. However, little of this research has looked at the implications of perceived vulnerability to disease for an orientation linked to many of the above outcomes: ideology. In two studies, we test the hypothesis that perceived vulnerability to disease should be associated with greater political conservatism. In Study 1, we find a relationship between perceived vulnerability to disease and increases in conservatism over time. In Study 2, we use data from the World Values Survey to demonstrate that perceived vulnerability to disease predicts a stronger preference for the political right in a large sample of respondents from a wide variety of nations. Together, these results suggest that the consequences of the behavioral immune system may extend to abstract identifications like ideology.

General Discussion

In these studies, we extend prior work on the social implications of the behavioral immune system by examining the relation between subjective perceptions of disease vulnerability and ideological self-placement. Consistent with the expectation that the perceived prevalence of pathogens activates motivational goals and values congruent with conservatism, Study 1 found that perceived vulnerability to disease was associated with increases political conservatism over time and a stronger tendency to evaluate conservatives more positively than liberals net of baseline political beliefs. Extending this finding, Study 2 found that PVD was also related to a greater preference for the political right in a large representative survey of respondents from a wide variety of nations. In both cases, our results were robust to controls for relevant demographic characteristics and competing psychological determinants of ideology. Together, our findings address a major gap in our understanding of the behavioral immune system’s social implications. Although PVD has been shown to predict conformity (Murray & Schaller, 2012; Wu & Chang, 2012) and exclusionary outgroup attitudes (Faulkner et al., 2004), the current studies are the first to provide direct evidence for a relationship between PVD and ideological conservatism. Given the relatively abstract nature of ideology as an identification (Jost et al., 2009), they suggest that the operation of the behavioral immune system may also have consequences for outcomes less concrete and socially immediate than ingroup bias or conformity. Methodologically, they provide a more precise look at the relationship between the behavioral immune system and ideology than studies that rely solely on disgust sensitivity as an indicator of pathogen avoidance, which have yielded inconsistent findings (Tybur et al., 2009). By relying on a more direct indicator of pathogen avoidance that accounts for both the subjective perceptions of susceptibility to infection and related affective responses, our results help clarify the connection between the functioning of the behavioral immune system and ideology. Despite the strength of our evidence, our studies are not without their limitations. First, our correlational data cannot provide decisive evidence for a causal link between PVD and ideology. That said, our inclusion of a lagged indicator for our dependent variable does allows us to model change in conservatism across time as a function of PVD and overcome some of the bias potentially introduced by feedback effects (Finkel, 1995). Second, in Study 2, we were only able to use a simple proxy measure of PVD from the World Values Survey, rather than the validated scale employed in Study 1(Duncan et al., 2009). Nevertheless, the WVS items measure perceptions closely related to those included in the PVD scale, leaving us with confidence in their face validity; the similarity of our results across the two studies (and two very different samples) also testifies to the correspondence between the two measures. The evidence we present for a relationship between PVD and conservatism also has a number of broader implications, both for society as a whole and for future research. Like other threats (e.g., Jost et al., 2003, 2009), increased attention to public health concerns associated with infectious disease—both in communications from political elites and in media coverage—may have the potential to produce a conservative shift in public opinion and ideological sympathies. Such changes in the salience of disease threat may have both a main effect on conservatism, as well as a moderating effect in which they activate individual differences in PVD and produce especially large ideological shifts among those who feel chronically susceptible to infection. Given the tendency for pathogen prevalence to produce especially strong reactions against cultural outgroups and those who fail to conform to dominant social norms (e.g., Schaller et al. 2003; Thornhill & Fincher, 2012), we might also expect these effects to be especially strong when disease threats are associated with “foreign” groups (e.g., West Africans in the case of Ebola) or “non-normative” groups (e.g., gay men in the case of HIV). These questions await future research.

Increased Support for Same-sex Marriage in the US: Americans of all ages modified their beliefs about same-sex marriage over time

Increased Support for Same-sex Marriage in the US: Disentangling Age, Period, and Cohort Effects. Jean M. Twenge &Andrew B. Blake. Journal of Homosexuality, Jan 4 2020.

ABSTRACT: Previous research established a substantial increase in support for same-sex marriage in the US, but it is unclear if this increase is due to cohort (a change that affects only the younger generation) or time period (a change that affects those of all ages). In a nationally representative sample of American adults (n = 13,483) in 1988 and 2004–2018, increased support for same-sex marriage was primarily due to time period (from 11.1% in 1988 to 66.7% in 2018). There was a smaller cohort effect, with a fairly linear increase between cohorts born in the 1960s and those born in the 1990s. Time period increases in support for same-sex marriage appeared among across gender, race, education levels, regions, and levels of religious service attendance, though differences in support still remain. The results suggest Americans of all ages modified their beliefs about same-sex marriage over time.

KEYWORDS: Same-sex marriage, cultural change, time period, cohort, lgbt rights, gender differences, regional differences


Increased support for same-sex marriage between 1988 and 2018 appears to
be primarily a time period effect, with those of all ages increasing in support,
rather than a generational phenomenon. Thus, increased support for samesex marriage is not primarily due to generational shifts. Instead, Americans
of all ages changed their beliefs about same-sex marriage. The trends also
appeared across all demographic groups. Differences based on gender, race,
education, region, and religion remain, but all groups are now substantially
more likely to support same-sex marriage. Thus, the increased support for
same-sex marriage was pervasive, appearing across ages and generations as
well as across demographic groups.
The results suggest that some attitudes may be malleable after young
adulthood under the right historical and political conditions. The extraordinary cultural shift toward embracing LGBT rights, including the right to
marry, apparently impacted older people as well as younger ones. Future
research should explore whether other attitudes may be changed later in life,
or if LGBT attitudes are the exception.
This analysis is limited to the data available. First, support for same-sex
marriage was measured only once before 2004 (in 1988), and it is possible
this year had unique cultural influences that could skew the results. However,
the numbers are consistent with other measures of LGBT attitudes in the GSS
in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Twenge, Sherman, & Wells, 2015). Data from
Gallup asking about same-sex marriage suggest that support continued to
increase between 1996 (27%) and 2004 (42%; McCarthy, 2019), suggesting
that there was a fairly linear trend during the 16 years when the GSS did not
field the same-sex marriage question. Second, the GSS does not include data on
all cohorts at all ages, which limits our ability to discern (for example) the
young adulthood responses of the earlier cohorts and the midlife responses of
the later cohorts. Third, the analysis is based on a self-report survey question
that may be subject to social desirability bias; perhaps people express support
for same-sex marriage because they believe this is what they should say.
However, one study found that support for same-sex marriage was similar
even when respondents were afforded more anonymity, suggesting social
desirability bias does not have much effect on survey questions about support
for same-sex marriage (Lax, Phillips, & Stollwerk, 2016).
In summary, the extraordinary increase in support for same-sex marriage
appears to have occurred for an extraordinary reason: Those past young
adulthood altering their views as the culture shifted to embrace LGBT rights.
The fight for same-sex marriage not only won the hearts of the younger
generations but the hearts of many in older generations as well in a pervasive
wave of cultural change.