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Theories of Sexual Orientation

This entry provides a review of the dominant theories about the causes of sexual orientation, along with a review of the current state of empirical evidence for each theory. Sexual orientation is defined here as one’s predisposition to experience sexual attractions for the same sex, the other sex, or both sexes. Sexual orientation is distinct from sexual identity, which represents an individual’s self-concept as lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, queer, and so on. Sexual orientation is also distinct from sexual behavior, since many individuals pursue sexual behaviors and relationships that may not concord with their pattern of attraction. Hence, the theories outlined in this entry relate specifically to sexual orientation rather than sexual identity or behavior.

Theories of sexual orientation fall into two general categories: those that ...

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