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home > research index > bieber et al.  

Research Summary:
Irving Bieber et al.
Homosexuality: a Psychoanalytic Study

See introductory pages for explanation of format.

Authors and Source:
Irving Bieber, Harvey J. Dain, Paul R. Dince, Marvin G. Drellich, Henry G. Grand, Ralph H. Gundlach, Malvina W. Kremer, Alfred H. Rifkin, Cornelia B. Wilbur, Toby B. Bieber.
Homosexuality: a Psychoanalytic Study. New York: Basic Books, 1962.
Follow-up data is from Bieber 1967 and Bieber 1987.
Brief Description:
This study compares 106 male homosexuals and 100 male heterosexuals, all in treatment with members of the Society of Medical Psychoanalysts.
Stated Goal of Therapy/Treatment:
Varied. "The initial complaints of the homosexual patients. . . included sexual difficulties, anxiety, various neurotic symptoms, work inhibitions, and so forth" (p. 28).
Stated Definition of Change:
Not specified.
Actual Change:
Change in Homosexual Behaviour.
Change in Heterosexual Behaviour.
Description of Method:
Fifty-eight psychoanalysts filled out questionnaires on 106 male homosexuals who were in psychoanalytic treatment. Bieber and his associates studied the results of these questionnaires.
In terms of sexual behaviour, 72 of the men were exclusively homosexual, 30 were bisexual, and 4 were not sexually active at the time of the study. 64 of these men wanted to overcome homosexuality, 32 did not, and ten did not answer either way (Table II-4, p. 29).
Length of Treatment:
At the time of the first questionnaire, 60 men had undergone less than 200 hours of treatment, and 46 had undergone over 200 hours of treatment. For some men, the actual length was less than 25 hours; for some, it was over 450 hours (p. 32).
A five-year follow-up was done on 15 of the 29 individuals who were exclusively heterosexual at the end of treatment. These 15 individuals had all kept in contact with their psychoanalysts.
Summary of Results:
  1. Of the 72 patients who had been exclusively homosexual at the start of treatment:
    1. 42 remained exclusively homosexual
    2. 2 were sexually inactive
    3. 14 were bisexual
    4. 14 were exclusively heterosexual
  2. Of the 30 patients who had been bisexual at the start of treatment:
    1. 2 were sexually inactive
    2. 13 remained bisexual
    3. 15 became exclusively heterosexual
  3. Of the four homosexual patients who had been sexually inactive at the start of treatment:
    1. 1 was exclusively homosexual
    2. 2 remained sexually inactive
    3. 1 was bisexual (all data from Table XI-1, p. 276)
  4. Thus, at the time of the study, 29 patients who had been bisexual or exclusively homosexual had become exclusively heterosexual. A five-year follow-up was done on 15 of these patients: 12 of these continued to be exclusively heterosexual, and three "remained predominantly heterosexual, with sporadic homosexual episodes under situations of stress" (Bieber 1967, p. 972; Bieber 1987).
Discussion of Relevant Results:
  1. Our focus here is on the 72 patients who had been exclusively homosexual at the start of treatment. It is claimed that 14 of these had become exclusively heterosexual by the time of the study.
  2. We are not told whether patients who had become exclusively heterosexual still had homosexual fantasies and/or attractions. As well, the inclusion of the "inactive" category (Table XI-1, p. 276) puts the focus on behaviour rather than attraction and fantasy.
  3. Thus, we can only claim that 14 patients who had been exclusively homosexual were exclusively heterosexual in behaviour at the time of the study.
  4. As discussed above, twelve of the fifteen patients who were followed for five years remained consistently heterosexual. According to Bieber (1987, p. 424), seven of these twelve had been exclusively homosexual before treatment. Thus, seven persons who were initially exclusively homosexual, remained exclusively heterosexual in behaviour for at least five years. (Note: Bieber 1967 does not distinguish between those who were initially exclusively homosexual and those who were initially bisexual.)
  5. It is possible that some of the patients who were exclusively homosexual at the start of treatment experienced a partial or full shift in sexual orientation. However, based on the previous three items, there is no data to confirm or deny such a possibility.
Good sample size.
Limitations and Shortcomings:
  1. The questionnaires were filled out by the psychoanalysts who had seen the patients. The patient was not asked these questions directly, nor were outside sources used to confirm the answers.
  2. The questionnaire asked general questions about fantasies and dreams. It did not ask about changes in these, nor whether at the time of the study they were directed to the same sex and/or the opposite sex. To determine change, the questionnaire only asked about the patient's sexual status at last contact, using the categories of exclusively homosexual, bisexual, exclusively heterosexual, and inactive (p. 347). The questionnaire itself did not provide definitions of these terms.
  3. Bieber sometimes groups patients who initially were bisexual, together with those who initially were exclusively homosexual (see data about fantasy and dream content in Table IX-1B, p. 222, and follow-up statistics in Bieber 1967). Data should be separate for these two groups.
Cross References:
Nicolosi #1
Reviewed and Critiqued in:
Acosta 1975, Bieber 1967, Bieber & Bieber 1979, Bieber 1987, Blair 1972, Clippinger 1974, Diamant 1987, Green 1988, Haldeman 1991, Haldeman 1994, Murphy 1992, Throckmorton 1998.

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