Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

Kathrin Hartmann

Committee Member

James F. Paulson

Committee Member

Nicole L. Kreiser


Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP) are more likely than individuals with typical development (TD) to report a sexual minority orientation (e.g., Bejerot & Eriksson, 2014; DeWinter et al., 2017; Qualls, Hartmann, & Paulson, 2018). There has been no research on how existing theories of sexual orientation might explain the development or increased likelihood of sexual minority orientation in these individuals. The aim of this study was to operationalize and test the fit of an existing model of sexual orientation (Worthington, Savoy, Dillon, & Vernaglia, 2002) in individuals with TD, BAP, and ASD.

Participants included individuals with TD (n=170), BAP (n=199), and ASD (n=66). Data from the TD and BAP groups was entered into a structural equation model (SEM) testing the effects of six biopsychosocial factors: number of LGBTQ+ relatives, sexual prejudice in family and culture, religiosity, heterosexism, and belief in traditional gender norms on sexual minority orientation. ANOVA comparisons between all three groups on these variables and the variable of sexual awareness were conducted due to low sample size of the ASD group. Hierarchical linear regressions were also conducted in the BAP and ASD groups to test the relationship of the above variables on sexual minority orientation.

The model was found to have adequate fit, X2(130)=374.04, pb=0.26, p=.002, with increased daily heterosexist experiences predicting greater sexual minority orientation in this group. None of the other factors predicted sexual minority orientation in either group. Nevertheless, there were significant positive correlations between several predicting factors. This study is the first to examine how biopsychosocial factors affect sexual minority orientation in individuals with TD, BAP, and ASD. Additionally, individuals with ASD experience more heterosexism and sexual prejudice than individuals with BAP and TD, making this an important area of intervention and research that has not heretofore been addressed.


The VIRGINIA CONSORTIUM PROGRAM IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY is a joint program of Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University.


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