A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality
Dr. James Beck's review of, "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality," by Joseph Nicolosi and Linda Ames Nicolosi.
Nicolosi, Joseph, & Linda Ames Nicolosi A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2002 Paperback, $12.00. 254 pp. ISBN 0-8308-2379-4.
Husband and wife team Joseph and Linda Nicolosi have written a bold, new book that is sure to be of great help to many families. Their work represents an effort of considerable courage as well since they face ostracism from their secular peers for arguing the case of this book as they do. We also owe a debt of thanks to the publisher for putting this helpful material in the hands of the public.
The book's title is not exactly descriptive of its contents. The book, in actuality, is about how parents can react to a male child or teenager who rejects his own gender and adopts a highly feminized style of activity and interest. To a lesser degree, the book also deals with how parents can and should deal with a female child or teenager who displays intense masculine patterns of interest. In this sense then, the book is about preventing a fuller and more complete expression of homosexuality when the child developmentally reaches adulthood. The book does not concern itself with children and teens who do not display these signs of what the authors term prehomosexuality, gender-conflicted behavior, gender-confused attitudes, or gender-disturbed styles of behavior.
The book is the outcome of years of providing psychotherapy to children, teens, and families who find themselves in the midst of this type of gender confusion. Dr. Nicolosi serves as the President of NARTH (National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) and has also built a distinguished career of helping active homosexuals who wish to move away from their homosexual lifestyles toward heterosexuality. But that is a topic for another book. Dr. Nicolosi objects to homosexuality, in part, out of his Roman Catholic theological convictions although this book is primarily therapeutic in tone, not theological or biblical.
The main theoretical framework for the Nicolosi team traces its roots to Freudian objections to homosexuality. Neo-Freudians, primarily Elizabeth Moberly, have altered the original psychoanalytical explanation of homosexuality somewhat by focusing on deficits in same-gender parental relationships rather than problems with opposite-gender parental connections. Boys veering toward homosexuality often sustain distant or unconnected relationships with their fathers, and girls often display the opposite pattern. The Nicolosi team refrains from declaring that this developmental pattern is the one, solitary background for all homosexual persons, but they do assert that it is common enough that no one can ignore its relevance. And the beauty of working with children and teens who do come from this type of background is that in most cases the therapist has the option of helping parents change their style of interaction so that the children can benefit from a healthier relationship with their parents and can continue their development toward normal heterosexuality as adults. Reparative therapy of adult homosexuals can often only strive for a healing of wounds caused by parental deficits that have long ago slipped into history.
The authors present one case study that is particularly poignant. An adult male homosexual describes his memories of his childhood with the following description:
We had an old farmhouse outside Sioux City, and you opened up this rickety trapdoor and went down these creaky old steps into a dark and damp-smelling basement. My father would escape from the rest of us and spend hours there in his machine shop. But I was forbidden to go there – I might break his tools or get hurt, is what he told me. So I would lie on my belly up above, looking down and watching Dad work. What I'll never forget is that feeling of mystery about what was going on down below. Eventually my Dad let my two older brothers help him, and they'd be talking and working and laughing. It wasn't just the mystery of what was being done in the cellar . . . it was the whole mystery of who Dad was, because to this day, I really don't understand him. If I had to draw just one picture that would represent my entire childhood, it would be of me peering down into the darkness below at my father and my brothers. (p. 102)
For many years research has indicated that “there is a high correlation between gender nonconformity in boyhood and adult homosexuality” (p. 12). The authors concede that biological factors may play a part in the development of homosexuality, but contend that family and environmental influences are far more powerful in determining its ultimate expression. Thus when families notice that a young boy is having difficulty accepting his masculinity or engaging masculine activities and interests, the family can make environmental changes that will in time help the boy more easily accept his gender. Normally these changes consist of focused and loving attention for the boy from his father. The authors are careful not to confuse the encouragement of a “macho” style with what parents need to cultivate in the gender-confused boy. “Of course, the . . .child should not be forced into a predetermined mold that will cause him to deny his fundamental nature – his natural gifts of creativity, sensitivity, kindness, gentleness, sociability, intuitiveness or high intellect” (p. 38). “A gender-nonconforming boy can be sensitive, kind, social, artistic, gentle – and heterosexual. He can be an artist, an actor, a dancer, a cook, a musician – and a heterosexual. . . . No one should try to discourage those abilities and traits” (p. 48).
One very useful feature of the book consists of transcripted interviews Dr. Nicolosi includes as a major portion of the final chapter. He conducted interviews with parents of prehomosexual boys who had been his patients years earlier and asked these parents to reflect on the slow but gradual changes they observed in their sons as the parents made changes to encourage the boy's acceptance of his masculinity. Included in this section of the book is a rather extended journal written by a mother of a prehomosexual boy that chronicles the slow changes she was able to observe in her son on his way to becoming a much less gender-confused child. For families wondering what to do about a son who displays difficulty accepting his masculinity, this is the book to read. Its practical suggestions for parents will help them deal with an otherwise baffling problem.
James R. Beck, Ph.D.
Professor of Counseling