Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

John J. Rearden


Early research on the study of lesbianism was largely psychoanalytically oriented and contended that homosexuality was a form of psychopathology. Many have found that female homosexuals have a deep sense of inferiority and suffer from neuroticism. Recent investigation however, indicates that this is not necessarily the case. It has now been found that lesbians are no more neurotic than female heterosexuals. Furthermore, several other investigators have found lesbians to be better adjusted, in some respects, than heterosexual women.

Such differences are accountable for a number of reasons including the use of nonpatient subjects, reduction in sampling errors and the use of non-projective rather than projective techniques. The Comrey Personality Scales (CPS), which is a non-projective device, provides a comprehensive, multi-dimensional assessment measuring the major personality characteristics of an adult.

Sandra L. Bem, also interested in the study of psychological adjustment, pioneered the study of androgyny. She questioned the assumption that it is the sex-typed individual who typifies mental health, and focused on the behavioral and social consequences of more flexible sex-role concepts. Bem (1974) has developed the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI), an instrument that differentiates between sex-role types. She classifies these as masculine, feminine and androgynous. Bem demonstrated that masculine and feminine sex-typed individuals avoid cross-sexed behaviors while androgynous individuals do not. Androgynous people were able to engage more freely in whatever behavior they desired regardless of its stereotype as masculine or feminine.

It was hypothesized that there would be a positive correlation between androgyny and psychological adjustment for both the heterosexual and homosexual women, on the BSRI and CPS. It was secondly hypothesized that there would be a significant difference between lesbians and heterosexual women on levels of androgyny, psychological adjustment and demographics. Thirdly, it was hypothesized that lesbians "in the closet" would be less androgynous and less psychologically adjusted than those "out of the closet." It was further hypothesized that the longer a lesbian was "in the closet," the less androgynous and less psychologically adjusted she would be, and the longer she was "out of the closet," the more androgynous and adjusted she would be.

Seventy-five lesbians and seventy-five heterosexuals from Detroit, Michigan were given the BSRI, CPS and demographic sheet developed by the experimenter. They were classified into the appropriate sex-role categories according to their endorsement of factors on the BSRI. Means and t-ratios were found for each of the BSRI's Androgyny and Social Desirability scales. The raw scores were also obtained from the CPS.

A discriminant analysis was used to differentiate between the heterosexual and homosexual groups on levels of androgyny, psychological adjustment and demographics. Additionally, a canonical correlation utilized the same dependent variables as in the discriminant analysis but involved the independent varibles of: a) lesbians in or out of the closet, b) how long they were in, and c) how long they were out. Pearson product moment correlations were also computed.

Results indicated there was a significant positive relationship between androgyny and psychological adjustment as measured by the CPS. The discriminant analysis found a significant difference between homosexual and heterosexual women on two out of five demographics, six out of nine CPS scales and three out of four BSRI scales. Results of the t-test and Pearson correlations indicated that lesbians in the closet were significantly less androgynous and less adjusted in six out of nine CPS scales than those out of the closet. Furthermore, it was found that the longer a woman was out of the closet the more androgynous and adjusted she was in six out of nine CPS scales. Conversely, the longer a woman was in the closet, the less adjusted and less adjusted she was in six out of nine CPS scales. The canonical analysis further supported the hypothesis that levels of androgyny and adjustment were related to length of time in and out of the closet, but was not as strong, as the support given by the t-test and Pearson correlations.