Handbook of Psychology and Sexual Orientation (Book Review)

Authors:  Patterson, Charlotte J. and Anthony R. D’Augelli
Publisher:  Oxford University Press, 2012, 320 pp., New York
Reviewd by:  Reviewed by Glenda M. Russell

 Handbook of Psychology and Sexual OrientationJust under a decade ago, I had the opportunity to review the second edition of Linda Garnets and Doug Kimmel’s (2003) edited volume, Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Experiences (Russell, 2004). Now, I have the opportunity to read and review Charlotte Patterson and Tony D’Augelli’s new volume, Handbook of Psychology and Sexual Orientation.

My thoughts were carried from reading the 2012 book back to the 2003 book largely because I was so often struck, as I read the newer one, by the difference that a decade has made in the research on LGBT psychological matters. I had the distinct feeling that I was seeing the emergence of a new generation of research on these issues—an expanding breadth of research interests, an enhanced sophistication about methodology, a greater depth to familiar topics, and a striking move away from research that tried to prove who we weren’t to research that tries to understand who we are. There were times as I was reading that I found myself smiling at all of these changes. It is gratifying to see just how far we have come as a field. And it was also fun to see how much of this good work has been carried out by members of Division 44.

Patterson and D’Augelli’s book is divided into four sections, each covering a range of chapters under a broad heading. The first section looks at “concepts, theories, and perspectives” on sexual orientation and gender identity. This section leads off with outstanding reviews of female sexual orientation by Lisa Diamond and gay male identity by Jeffrey Parsons and Christian Grov. There are also reviews of bisexual and transgender identities as well as the biological concomitants of sexual orientation. The section ends with Gary Gates’ review of demographic information about sexual orientation. I was tempted to make a copy of this chapter to hand out to anyone who insists (yet again) that 10 percent of the population is LGB.

The next section of the book covers developmental issues. There are chapters on youth, middle adulthood, and aging—all very solid. There is also a wonderful chapter by Bert Cohler and Stuart Michaels on “emerging adulthood” in LGB lives. This chapter is a tour de force. It offers not only a theoretical framework for a review and synthesis of extant literature but also some brief but very effective narratives illustrating key points.

The third section of the volume addresses a variety of domains, including work, relationships, family lives, separate chapters on physical health related to gay men, to lesbian and bisexual woman, and mental health. The chapter on sexual orientation and mental health by Susan Cochran and Vickie Mays offers a great review of the literature on the topic along with a comprehensive section on methodological issues that would serve as a quick reminder for anyone embarking on research in this general area (or research in any area, for that matter). The final section addresses communities and contextual issues. There are chapters on attitudes related to sexual orientation, minority stress, victimization, race and ethnicity, and LGBT communities. Bianca Wilson and Gary Harper’s chapter on race and ethnicity does a notable job of tracing the threads of major theories about the issue and then offering incisive criticism regarding various aspects of research in this area to date.

Clearly, I think this volume has many strengths. I have to single out the emphasis on resilience, on context broadly construed, on methodology, and on future directions of research. Attention to these often neglected topics occurs regularly throughout most of the chapters.

Taken as a whole, the chapters in Patterson and D’Augelli’s book represent a bonanza for multiple audiences. I agree with the editors’ assertion in their preface that the book will be useful for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, professionals in psychology and other mental health fields, and professionals in allied fields (e.g., law). Clinicians should find it a welcome resource.

I often tell graduate students embarking on research in a new area that, in addition to undertaking a full literature search in their area, it is a good idea to read the very best review article on that topic to see not just what the research says about the topic but how the topic is qualitatively discussed and understood in the field more broadly. Most of the chapters in this book would qualify as that sort of starting point. Moreover, reading the book underscores what areas in LGBT psychology are woefully under-researched, such as bisexuality and gender identity. (Graduate students looking for research topics: Take heed.)

The book does not do more than hint at the cutting edges of the field, nor was it meant to do that. Instead, it is an outstanding summary and synthesis of where the psychology of sexual orientation and gender identity stands at this time. People who are serious about this field will want a copy of this volume on their book shelf.

References

Garnets, L. D., and Kimmel, D. C. (Eds.) (2003). Psychological perspectives on lesbian, gay, and bisexual experiences (2nd ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.

Russell, G. M. (2004). [Review of L. Garnets & D. Kimmel (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on lesbian, gay, and bisexual experiences (2nd ed.)]. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 30, 295–297.

Oct 2012, 332 pages
ISBN13: 9780199765218
Hardcover
Originally $98.50, currently $78.80