A Dynamical Systems Approach to the Development and Expression of Female Same-Sex Sexuality

Lisa M. Diamond
2007 Perspectives on Psychological Science  
Researchers have documented substantial variability in the development and expression of same-sex sexuality, especially among women, posing challenges to traditional linear developmental models. In this article, I argue for a new approach to conceptualizing the development and expression of female same-sex sexuality over the life course, based in dynamical systems theory. Dynamical systems models seek to explain how complex patterns emerge, stabilize, change, and restabilize over time. Although
more » ... originally developed by mathematicians and physicists to model complex physical phenomena in the natural world, they have increasingly been applied to social-behavioral phenomena, ranging from motor development to cognition to language. I demonstrate the utility of this approach for modeling change over time in female same-sex sexuality, reviewing extant published research and also introducing data collected from an ongoing, 10-year longitudinal study of young nonheterosexual women. I provide evidence that female same-sex sexuality demonstrates the emblematic features of a dynamical system: nonlinear change over time, spontaneous emergence of novel forms, and periodic reorganizations and phase transitions within the overall system. I highlight the specific contribution of a dynamical systems perspective for understanding such phenomena and suggest directions for future study. Research on the nature and development of same-sex sexuality seems to suggest that the more we learn, the more we do not understand. There was a period around the late 1980s and early 1990s when scientific findings appeared to coalesce around a robust, essentialist, organismic model of the etiology and ontology of sexual orientation. According to this model, exclusive sexual predispositions for the same sex were determined by genes and/or perinatal hormonalization (Bailey
doi:10.1111/j.1745-6916.2007.00034.x pmid:26151957 fatcat:xgh53r7gqnhtphc2l64gmbag7u