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21 April 2004
Gay Marriages As Robust As Heterosexual Pairings
by George Atkinson

An old Freudian idea that has contributed to beliefs that homosexuals aren't fit for marriage should be scrapped, according to a new study by California State University professor Mark Biernbaum.

According to Biernbaum's study, appearing in the Journal of Homosexuality, gay and lesbian individuals are not psychologically immature. They haven't simply failed to grow into mental adulthood, which Freud believed caused them to seek partners of the same sex much like children seek playmates of the same sex.

Biernbaum found instead that gay and straight 18-25 year-olds with similar backgrounds responded almost identically to a questionnaire designed to test psychological maturity. That finding also rules out the idea that immaturity makes homosexuals more prone to mental illness.

"You can't make the link between psychological immaturity and homosexuality. It doesn't exist," Biernbaum says. "Yes, gay people do seem to be much more at risk for mental illness, but I think it must be due more to societal factors than psychological factors."

Biernbaum's current research and a series of other studies have found that homosexual youth are at increased risk for a host of mental health problems - including suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety.

Biernbaum says his findings should influence how psychiatrists and other mental health professionals treat homosexual clients.

"A lot of what's behind this whole debate about gay marriage is Freud's concept that homosexuals are promiscuous and aren't capable of a grown-up romantic relationship," Biernbaum says. "I really think all the recent media coverage showing gay couples as real people sends an important message, both to society and to homosexual youth who may be having trouble finding their way."

In addition to not differing on psychological maturity, the study found no differences found between the two groups regarding their views on adult romantic relationships.

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