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Homosexuality and bisexuality

Childhood programs intended
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In the past, social and religious conservatives have concentrated on either:

  • Opposing equal rights and protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and same-sex couples, or
  • Persuading bisexuals decide to enter into relationships only with members of the opposite sex, or
  • Persuading gays and lesbians to decide to choose celibacy.

They have also promoted secular reparative therapy techniques and spiritual transformational ministry practices in an attempt to change their clients' sexual orientation.

Since about the year 2000, a new outreach has surfaced: Some groups and therapists are now offering parents techniques designed to prevent their children from developing a homosexual or bisexual orientation.

As in previous cases of therapy, this is an experimental form of therapy that is being widely applied even though its efficacy and safety have not been measured and reported in peer-reviewed journals. Past application of untested therapies -- recovered memory therapy, multiple personality disorder/dissociative identity disorder, reparative therapy and transformational ministries have generally proved to be disasterous.

Disagreement over the nature and cause sexual orientation:

There appear to be two solitudes involved in the study of sexual orientation.

  • One is mainly composed of religious conservatives and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. The latter is an organization of about 1,000 therapists who promote a religiously conservative belief system about homosexual orientation. NARTH is becoming widely accepted among some Evangelicals and Evangelical Christian ministries, because it is the only professional mental health association that teaches that homosexual orientation is an abnormal, unnatural disorder, that it is chosen, and that it can be changed through effort. NARTH also emphasizes the major division of roles among fathers and mothers, an emphasis seen among religious conservatives.
  • The second group is composed of most gays, lesbians, bisexuals, religious liberals, mental health professionals and their professional associations, human sexuality researchers, etc. They conclude that homosexuality is one of three normal, natural sexual orientations. A homosexual orientation is something that a person discovers rather than chooses. It is essentially unchangeable in adulthood.

The two groups also differ in their beliefs concerning the cause of homosexual orientation:

  • NARTH teaches that homosexuality is caused by improper parenting. They note that infant boys and girls bond closely with their mothers. But they regard as essential that young boys detach from their mothers to a degree, and bond with their fathers. If they do not do this, they might enter puberty longing for a connection with another male -- a type of father substitute. This desire may be sexualized, and lead to same-sex sexual experimentation. The latter can lead to an addiction to homosexuality. Gays and lesbians thus suffer from a disruption of their relationship to their parent of the same sex. This causes "gender dysphoria." Reparative therapy/conversion therapy/transformational therapy often attempt to convert the sexual orientation of adult homosexuals to heterosexuality by helping them form a close non-sexual bond with another male. Once this void is satisfied, they believe that heterosexual desires can be expected to emerge.
  • Most therapists believe that homosexuality is largely determined by an individual's genes, and not by a lack of bonding with the same-sex parent. Some unknown factor in the environment before the age of five may trigger the gene or let it lie dormant. They regard sexual orientation as fixed in adulthood, and warn that reparative and similar therapies are both ineffective and potentially dangerous.

Preventing homosexuality:

Dr. Nicolosi, the president of NARTH, believes that:

  • Homosexuality is treatable in adulthood and
  • Parents can prevent homosexuality from developing in their children by changing their parenting methods, starting quite early in their children's life.

In an interview, he said:

"We're talking about 2 1/2 years old. This is what they call the gender-identity phase. It's the time when children begin to realize that the world is divided between males and females and that he or she is pressured into identifying with one or the other. If the father is cold, distant, aloof, detached or critical, that doesn't happen properly [to a boy]." 1

In a presentation at a Love Won Out (LWO) conference, he said that homosexuality is caused by:

"...Poor communication between the mother and the father, especially at the time of the gender identity phase [1 to 3 years old]. The mother and son have a special understanding. The father is guarded, ill at ease, hostile [around his young son]...fathers, we don't like to hold infants, we don't know what to do with them. Even if a father drops his son and cracks his head, at least he'll be straight. Homosexual men are not relaxed, comfortable around other men. We tell fathers: 'If you don't hug your son, some other man will'." 2

In his book, he "A parent's guide to preventing homosexuality," he states that "there is a high correlation between gender non-conformity in boyhood and adult homosexuality." 3 Gender non-conformity is a phenomenon generally recognized by most mental health professionals. Boys who exhibit it may be "unathletic, somewhat passive, lonely (except for female friends), unaggressive, uninterested in rough-and-tumble play" 4 They may want to play with dolls, dress themselves in female clothes, and in other ways behave as a girl. They might even say that they want to be a girl, not a boy. Nicolosi suggests without intervention, such boys have perhaps a 75% chance of growing up to be homosexual, bisexual or transgender. NARTH recommends that the parents of such a boy encourage a close, emotional bond between him and his father.

Nicolosi recommends some activities between fathers and sons: aggressive play, showering together naked, taking short trips together out of the house, and having the father tuck his son into bed at bedtime. 5  He suggests that fathers get "more involved;" mothers "back off;" and both parents try to "bring other boys into the picture" as potential friends for their child. 6

Dr. Nicolosi writes:

"Once mothers and fathers recognize the real problems their gender-confused children face, agree to work together to help resolve then, and seek the guidance and expertise of a psychotherapist who believes that change is possible, there is hope. Growth into a heterosexual identity is indeed possible." 7

Response from the homosexual community:

On 2006-MAR-02, the In National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute issued a report "...accusing several religious organizations of harming homosexual teens by offering parents what they say are bogus therapies to keep children from becoming gay." They questioned the efficacy and ethics of these therapies and suggested that government authorities should provide closer oversight when these programs target youth. They suggest that some organizations employ unlicensed counselors.

According to the Associated Press:

"The report maintains that, increasingly, those attending seminars on homosexuality prevention and treatment are parents who have gay or lesbian children. Foreman called the programs frightening, saying they play into stereotypes, cautioning parents to worry if their sons are 'too feminine' and often blame parents for their children's sexual orientation. Foreman said he would like to see more long-term studies on the success of the treatment." 8

Which beliefs are correct?

Unfortunately, firm conclusions cannot be reached because the efficacy and safety of reparative therapy has never been effectively studied and reported in a peer-reviewed journal. This is commonly seen in the therapeutic field. Many forms of therapy have been proposed in the past and widely implemented without careful study. Two examples are Recovered Memory Therapy and Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder. Although both largely faded from the scene in the mid 1990s, they have left behind tens or hundreds of thousands of ruined lives, broken families, and many suicides.

Warning: Author's opinion follows:

Unfortunately, thousands of therapists and counselors have been practicing reparative and similar types of therapy on many tens of thousands of clients, without waiting for any peer-reviewed studies of the technique. Thus, definite conclusions cannot be reached at this time. However, there are several indicators that NARTH's beliefs are probably not valid.

  • Many thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- of homosexual adults who are keen to change their sexual orientation have each spent in excess of ten thousand dollars on a multi-year sessions of reparative therapy. Based on what scattered information is available, many bisexuals have been persuaded to abandon their homosexual relationships after therapy and seek matches only with members of the opposite sex. Some homosexuals do decide to remain celibate and leave what religious conservatives call "the homosexual lifestyle." But very few, if any, clients are able to change their orientation to heterosexual. If therapy to change a person's sexual orientation in adulthood does not work, then one might speculate that similar therapy earlier in life would probably fail as well.
  • If Reparative Therapy were based on a sound scientific foundations, then one would expect that a very large percentage of boys raised in families with an absent father would become homosexuals later in life. For example:
    • Many studies have been made of families led by same-sex parents. They show that a very small percentage of the boys in lesbian-led household become homosexuals later in life. NARTH's theories would predict the opposite.
    • One would expect that a very large percentage of children raised by single mothers would turn out gay. Our group has not observed this among the single mothers that we know. We are unaware of any studies that report a large percentage of homosexuals among the children of single parent families.
    • One would expect a large percentage of gays among those boys born in the late 1930s, when so many fathers in North America were absent fighting World War II. This does not seem to have happened.
    • One would expect a large percentage of gays among those raised in military families, because fathers are often away from the home. Again, this does not appear to have occurred.

Very little information is available on the safety of reparative therapy. There are anecdotal horror stories about clients being severely depressed following a failed course of reparative therapy. Some become suicidally depressed, and some take their own life. But there are also clients who try reparative therapy as a last resort. When they fail to change their sexual orientation, some conclude that they will remain homosexual for the rest of their life; they adjust to the situation and find peace.

End of author's opinion.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Joseph Nicolosi, "The compassionate answer: Homosexuality avoidable, doctor tells parents," San Francisco Faith: The Bay Areas Lay Catholic Newspaper, Vol. 2 # 7, 1998-JUL-AUG. Online at:
  2. Speech at the Love Won Out in Boston, 2005-OCT-29. See: Jason Cianciotto & Sean Cahill, "Youth in the Crosshairs: The third wave of ex-gay activism," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 2006-MAR-02, at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  3. Joseph and Linda Nicolosi, "A parent's guide to preventing homosexuality," InterVarsity Press (2002), Page 12. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store This book received 125 reviews as of 2006-JUL by buyers on the web site -- an unusually large number. The average rating was 2 out of 5 stars -- an unusually low value. Excerpts from the guide" are at:
  4. Ibid, Page 21.
  5. Ibid, Pages 88-89.
  6. Ibid, Page 106.
  7. Ibid. Sorry, I lost the page reference.
  8. Laura Wides-Munoz, "Report: Gay Prevention Programs Harm Teens," Associated Press, 2006-MAR-04. Online at Harvard Medical School's Consumer Health Information, at:

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Copyright 2006 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-MAR-05
Latest update: 2008-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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