Patel, S., Long, T. E., McCammon, S. L., & Wuensch, K. L. (1995). Personality and emotional correlates of self-reported antigay behaviors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 10, 354-366.
This study examined the relationship between the emotional response of homophobia and selected personality and self-report behavioral variables. Scales 4, 5, and 9 of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory were related to the affective components of homophobia as measured by the Index of Attitudes Towards Homosexuals (IAH; formerly Index of Homophobia-Modified) and self-report of past aggressive behavior toward homosexuals as measured by a Self-Report of Behavior Scale (SBS), specifically developed for this study. Data from 80 male subjects were subjected to a canonical correlation analysis. The first cannonical correlation showed that high SBS and high IAH are correlated with adherence to traditional masculine values, not faking good, impulsivity, and social maladjustment. The second canonical correlation indicates that a combination of high scores on Scales 9 and 5 is associated with elevated SBS scores, but decreased IAH scores. These data suggest that among young men certain personality characteristics (Scales 9 and 5) compound homonegative affect and behavior.

During the past decade antigay violence has become a prominent social issue (Berrill, 1990). The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reported 7,008 complaints of violence and harassment against homosexuals in 1987 compared with 4,946 in 1986 and 2,042 in 1985 (Herek, 1989). Across a number of surveys Berrill (1992) found harassment and violence to be widespread and growing. Studies at the Universities of Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania State, Yale, Rutgers, Oberlin, and Oregon have chronicled antigay episodes ranging from verbal insults to physical violence.

Available data suggest that male homosexuals are the most typical targets of assault and that most of the attacks appear to be initiated by juveniles or young adult males (U.S. House Committee of the Judiciary, 1987). Herek (1989) discussed the necessity to obtain descriptions of the perpetrators of antigay crimes. He suggested the use of surveys using student populations as one means of understanding antigay and other bias crimes. The present study responds to Herek's suggestion; the study's basic purpose was to obtain further knowledge regarding the individual for whom homophobia motivates some aggressive behavior.

Hudson and Ricketts (1980) were forerunners in the effort to specify and limit the concept of homophobia. They viewed homophobia as an affective phenomenon, conceptualizing it as one component of the multidimensional domain of antigay responses collectively identified by the term homonegativism. According to Hudson and Ricketts, homophobia is that dimension that describes the individual's experience of fear, disgust, anger, discomfort, and aversion in response to homosexuals. Hudson and Ricketts (1980) distinguished between homophobia ("personal affective responses to gay people") and "intellectual attitudes toward homosexuality as a phenomenon" (p. 358).

On the basis of this view, a relationship between the affective experience of homophobia and certain behavioral manifestations is likely (see Cuenot & Fugita, 1982; San Miguel & Millham, 1976.) However, the experience of fear, disgust, anger, discomfort, and aversion in response to homosexuals is not necessarily a sufficient cause of antigay violence. Rather, arousal reactions evoked by homosexuality are translated into behavior by some individuals and not by others. We hypothesized that personality variables are related to this translation process. A widely accepted measure of personality variables that affect personal or social adjustment is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI; Walsh & Betz, 1985). The MMPI-I was used, as it was the most commonly used form at the time of data collection (1988).

One of the most frequently reported correlates of negative responses toward homosexuals is an adherence to traditional gender roles (Brown & Amoroso, 1975; Dunbar, Brown, & Amoroso, 1973; Dunbar, Brown & Vuorinen, 1973; Krulewitz & Nash, 1980; Laner & Laner, 1979, 1980; MacDonald & Games, 1974; MacDonald, Huggins, Young, & Swanson, 1973; Millham & Weinberger, 1977; Weinberger & Millham, 1979). On the basis of this correlation, it is reasonable to expect most male homophobics to endorse interests that are generally identified as masculine in nature. Scale 5 of the MMPI is expected to measure, to some degree, the male investment into the traditional masculine role (Graham, 1977).

Low scores for men on Scale 5 of the MMPI indicate an individual who tends to present himself as very masculine. These individuals are generally easygoing and cheerful, lack insight into their own motives, are practical, prefer action to thought, are coarse and adventurous, overemphasize strength and physical prowess, and have a narrow range of interests. Interestingly, these individuals may harbor doubts about their masculinity (Graham, 1977). Panton (1980) commented that there is an element of compulsive masculinity that appears overdone and inflexible in some low-scoring men. Those scoring high on Scale 5 are empathic and tolerant (Graham, 1990). Thus it was hypothesized that among men scores on Scale 5 would be negatively correlated with homophobia.

According to Hudson and Ricketts (1980),

A high level of homophobia is likely to be an indicator that the person has experienced the kinds of social learning and training that would make them more susceptible to a variety of personal problems and difficulties with interpersonal relationships. (p. 364)

Scale 4 of the MMPI is a measure of general social adjustment, containing items that deal with difficulties in interpersonal relationships with family, school, and authority figures (Groth-Marnat, 1984). If Hudson an` Ricketts are correct, then the higher the level of individual psychopathy the more homophobic the individual is likely to be. Taking in consideration the impulsive acting out behavior, insensitivity, general social maladjustment, and hostility that is generally characteristic of high scorers on Scale 4 of the MMPI, it was hypothesized that high scores on Scale 4 would be associated with aggression toward homosexuals.

Another clinical scale from the MMPI of particular interest in this study is Scale 9. High scores on Scale 9 are generally obtained by individuals who are overactive, emotionally labile, and who experience flight of ideas. These individuals are easily bored; have low frustration tolerance; are narcissistic; have difficulty inhibiting expression of impulses; are thrill seekers; and have periods of irritability, restlessness, hostility, and aggressive outbursts (Graham, 1977; Greene, 1980). The acting out potential of high scorers on Scale 9 of the MMPI justifies consideration of this group in examining aggressive behavior toward certain target groups. It seems reasonable to expect that homophobics who are high scorers on Scale 9 would be likely to manifest their homophobia behaviorally. That is, negative affective experiences elicited by the stimulus of homosexuality are expected to emerge as behavioral manifestations.

The behavioral level of expression refers to specific, overt, and detectable behavior toward homosexuality. We are talking about action (verbal or nonverbal) that is essentially aggressive, avoidant, or withdrawing in nature toward individuals perceived as being homosexual.

It was the thesis of this study that personality factors and emotional responses to gays are components of this increasingly occurring hurtful pattern of antigay violence. Accordingly, we engaged college students in a study to (a) develop a self-report inventory of antigay behaviors and (b) identify the emotional and personality correlates of those who engage in those behaviors.



The initial subject pool consisted of 102 male college students ranging in age from 18 to 25 years. These men participated in the study on a voluntary basis in exchange for extra credit points. To ensure variability in the sample the subjects were obtained from several classes in the health sciences field taught at a southeastern coastal university and on two southeastern coastal military bases. Approximately half of the subjects were enlisted male marines enrolled in college classes on the military bases, whereas the rest were male civilians enrolled in classes at the university. Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, we wanted to emphasize to respondents that they could not be identified. Hence we did not collect demographic data such as sexual orientation, age, race, marital status, or socioeconomic status. We assumed that sexual orientation was distributed in our sample in a manner similar to the general population. However, by virtue of having selected themselves to enroll in a college class, the marine sample may not be typical of the marine population.


The MMPI is an objective technique of personality assessment consisting of 566 self-reference statements yielding scores on 4 validity scales and 10 clinical scales. Although subjects completed the entire MMPI, the present analysis focused on one validity scale and three clinical scales: the K scale (which measures defensiveness and the tendency to present oneself in a positive light), Scale 4, Scale 5, and Scale 9 (Graham, 1990).

The Index of Attitudes Toward Homophobia (IAH; formerly the Index of Homophobia-Modified) is an instrument with 25 items leading to a possible maximum score of 100 points. It was developed to measure responses of fear, disgust, anger, discomfort, and aversion that individuals experience in dealing with gay people. Hudson and Ricketts (1980) reported the reliability of the Index of Homophobia (IHP) as being .901 with a good factorial and content validity. Serdahely and Ziemba (1984) modified the original IHP by deleting five faulty items and replacing them with substitute items as suggested by Hudson and Ricketts (1980). They found the coefficient alpha for the modified IHP (IHP-M) to be .905 with a standard error of measurement of 4.56.

The Self-Report of Behavior Scale (SBS) consists of 21 items with a possible maximum score of 105 points, designed to measure self-report of past negative behavior toward male homosexuals in a variety of situations. Questionnaire items were developed to represent various verbal and physical aggressive and avoidant behaviors that were likely to be exhibited by homo-phobic men. The SBS was constructed with the college environment in mind because it was developed for use with college student respondents. Responses to the items on the scale indicate frequency of specific reported negative behaviors toward male homosexuals with five options: never, rarely, occasionally, frequently, and always. Examples of items include the following: "When a gay guy has been near me I have moved away to put more distance between us," "I have been with a group in which one (or more) person(s) yelled insulting comments to a gay man or group of gays," and "I have participated in damaging a guy's property because he was gay."


The three instruments were administered to the subjects in group settings at various scheduled times on the university campus and on the military bases. The administration of the MMPI and the IAH were counterbalanced across groups. All subjects were instructed to complete the SBS last and only when the other two instruments had been entirely completed.


Four of the subjects failed to answer one or more of the SBS items, so psychometric evaluation of the SBS was based on the responses of 98 subjects. Cronbach's alpha was .91, and all of the corrected item-total correlations were positive. One subject provided incomplete data on the IAH and was dropped from subsequent analyses. MMPI profiles with 30 or more omitted items, obvious "fake-bad" (T score on the F scale greater than 90 with L and K T's below 50), or random responses (T score on the F scale greater than 100 with L and K T's both near 50) were considered invalid and were excluded from the study, leaving data from 80 subjects. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) indicated that the civilian subjects did not differ significantly (a .05 criterion of significance was employed here and elsewhere) from the marine subjects on an optimally weighted combination of the MMPI scores (Scales 4, 5, 9, and K), the IAH, and the SBS, F(6, 73) < 1. Univariate analyses of variance (ANOVAs) also indicated that the marine subjects did not differ significantly from the civilian subjects on any one of these six variables. The intercorrelation matrix for the marine subjects was very similar to that of the civilian subjects. Accordingly, data from the marine subjects and the civilian subjects were pooled for subsequent analyses.

Descriptive statistics and the obtained correlation matrix are presented in Table 1. Results of the K scale suggest limited defensiveness on the part of our subjects. A T score range of 40 to 60 on the K scale was described by Lachar (1978) as indicating a balance in self-disclosure and self-protection, which suggests openness in self-description. Our subjects' K scale mean of 52.2 (SD = 8.3) falls well within that range.

The mean of the 80 subjects' scores on Scale 4 fell in the moderately elevated range, which is not unusual for this type of population (Groth-Mamat, 1984; Murray, Munley, & Gilbart, 1965). The mean of the scores on Scale 5 fell in the moderately elevated range, which is the typical range for most college-educated men (Greene, 1980). The mean of the current sample's scores on Scale 9 fell in the upper end of the moderately elevated range, which is not unusual because Scale 9 tends to be one of the most frequently elevated scales for college students (Duckworth & Duckworth, 1975).

The mean of the current sample's scores on the IAH (71.3, SD = 15.3) is similar to the means for the IAH obtained by Serdahely and Ziemba (1984) using college students. According to the categorization used by Hudson and Ricketts (1980), these students' scores fall in the upper "low-grade homophobic" category.

A review of items endorsed "occasionally," "frequently," or "always" on the SBS revealed few reports of physical aggression (5% reported getting into a "physical fight with someone who I thought was making moves on me"). Physically hitting or pushing someone who "brushed against my body" was reported by 8%. The most frequently reported negative behaviors were of being with a group in which someone yelled insulting comments (52%), spread negative talk (38%), verbally threatened someone who has "checked me out" (34%), and was "rude to a guy because I thought he was gay" (25%). Behaviors to create distance from someone believed to be gay were also frequently endorsed (e.g., 42% moved away, 37% stared to convey disapproval of being too close, and 29% changed seats).

Significant correlations were found between Scales 4 and 9, Scales 4 and K, Scale 5 and IAH (negative), Scale 9 and SBS, and SBS and IAH. All other correlations fell short of significance.

A canonical correlation analysis was used to investigate the relationship between the personality variables (Scales 4, 5, 9, and K of the MMPI) and the homonegative variables (IAH and SBS). The first canonical correlation was .38 and the second .32. The first and second canonical correlations together differed significantly from zero, F(8, 148) = 2.64, p = .010, as did the second evaluated by itself, F(3, 75) = 2.93, p = .04. The first canonical variate of the personality variables captured 23% of the standardized variance in the personality variables, and the second canonical variate captured 29%. The first canonical variate of the homonegative variables captured 63% of the standardized variance in the homonegative variables, with the second canonical variate capturing the remaining 37%. As shown in Table 2, the first canonical correlation is largely a matter of high SBS (and to a lesser degree, high IAH) being associated with high masculinity (low Scale 5), high Scale 4, high Scale 9, and low Scale K. The second canonical correlation indicates that scoring high on Scales 9 and 5 is associated with scoring high on the SBS but low on the IAH. Note that IAH and SBS are cooperative suppressors in the second canonical variate of the homonegative variables, each suppressing relevant variance in the other. High scores on the second canonical variate seem to reflect a general (not directed toward homosexuals) aggressiveness (high SBS in the absence of high IAH) not accompanied by highly stereotypical masculinity.

Because high IAH could be considered a cause of high SBS, we also conducted a simultaneous multiple regression analysis predicting SBS from IAH and the personality variables. The overall regression was significant, R = .52, F(5, 74) = 5.56, p < .001. Only Scale 9 (beta = .24, p = .03) and IAH (beta = .38, p < .001) had significant partial effects on SBS.


Our data indicate that there is a relationship between the affective experience of homophobia, selected personality characteristics, and the self-report of negative behavior toward gays, What we can say about the SBS is limited by the need for further development of the measure. The influence of social desirability must be addressed in future work done with the scale. Saunders (1991) described the threat to validity through contamination by social desirability response bias (SDRB) in self-report measures. Future studies using the SBS could incorporate the recommendations made by Saunders to measure and then statistically remove SDRB from self-report scores. This may be a complex task when applied to homonegative behaviors, as perceptions of social desirability may vary among respondents. Some persons may believe it is socially desirable to report negative behavior toward gays, whereas other persons might believe it is socially undesirable to report overt negativity or aggression.

Some validation for the SBS is provided in this study by the two significant correlations reported in Table 1. We would expect a relationship between Scale 9 that measures a potential for the acting out of behaviors described earlier and the endorsement of reports of negative behaviors toward gays. Second, the stronger correlation between the reports of negative behaviors and negative affective responses (IAH) provides additional face validity in support of the SBS. It would be valuable in future development of the SBS to conduct a factor analysis as the questionnaire may not be unidimensional. However, our current sample is not large enough for such an analysis.

The first canonical variate of our analysis shows a strong relationship between adherence to traditional masculine values and homophobia as expressed by higher scores on both the IAH and SBS, and lower scores on Scale 5. This finding confirms other reports in the literature from the 1970s (Herek, 1984) and is in line with Harry's (1990) notion of the dominant institution of gender as sanctioning negativity toward those who do not conform to masculine roles: "By viewing the victim as worthy of punishment for having violated gender norms, the offender not only excuses himself from opprobrium but sees himself as rendering gender justice and reaffirming the natural order of gender-appropriate behavior" (p. 353).

This type of thinking was observed by Weissman (1992, p. 173) in his interview with a teenage perpetrator who expressed outspoken hostility toward gays. "My friends and I go 'fag-hunting' around the neighborhood. They should all be killed." Traditional gender-role socialization appears at least partly responsible for a homophobic atmosphere that silently or verbally condones persecution of this minority group.

The question remains as to whether homonegative affective experience is essential to homonegative behavioral expressions. Answering this question involves looking at the association between the two homonegativity variables, IAH and SBS. As was shown in Table 1, the strongest of all the simple correlations was that between IAH and SBS. Clearly, homonegative affective experience is associated with self-reports of homonegative behavior. Do any of the personality variables explain variance in SBS not explained by IAH? The multiple regression analysis indicated that elevated Scale 9 scores do account for a significant proportion of the variance in SBS beyond that explained by IAH. Might homonegative behavior exist in the relative absence of homonegative affect? The second canonical correlation shows that a high SBS along with low IAH is associated with high scores on Scales 5 and 9. High scorers on Scale 9 are described as having low frustration tolerance, difficulty inhibiting impulses, "and periodic episodes of irritability, hostility, and aggressive outbursts are not uncommon" (Graham, 1990, p. 80). And high scores on Scale 5, as described earlier, are often present in a collegiate sample. On occasion, elevations on Scale 5 may be obtained by men who overemphasize their sexual and athletic prowess. This could be interpreted as a reaction formation against passivity (Lachar, 1978). Thus this relationship reveals an aggressiveness potential that operates in violence against gays in the absence of specific homophobic motivation.

In Weisman's interviews with teenage antigay perpetrators, five of the six youths interviewed revealed motivation other than specific antagonism toward gays. Comstock (1991) characterized that group of subjects as acting out of boredom,

not an expression of hatred and disapproval as much as it is a recreational option .... Apparently they did not attack gay men because they hated and, therefore, wanted to punish or hurt them, as much as they attacked a socially vulnerable people to alleviate their own boredom. (p. 76)

Themes of seeking adventure, camaraderie, and enjoyment are reflected in reports of other perpetrators as well. However, as Comstock warned, such pursuit of adventure and fun, even in the absence of hostile intent, can and sometimes does cause harm to the safety and well-being of gay targets.

We think these correlations provide some insight into the underlying motivations of those who report negative actions toward gays. These findings may help refine our approaches to effective intervention. For example, current approaches to reducing homonegativity at the college level typically include the giving of information (e.g., theories about the origins of sexual orientation), combating stereotypes (e.g., providing examples of gays in the National Football League), and providing firsthand contact with gay individuals (e.g., having a gay speaker in class). These interventions are designed to reduce negative affect and promote attitude change. Some success has been documented from this approach. Studies by Serdahely and Ziemba (1984) and Cerny and Polyson (1984) found an increase in positive attitudes toward homosexuals among those who had completed a unit on homosexuality in a sexuality course.

However, attempts to reduce negative emotions toward gays do not address antigay "hate crimes" not necessarily motivated by "hate." Disapproval of homosexuality is not always so much a reason as it is a permission for acting negatively toward gays (Comstock, 1991). This permission may be covertly legitimized in major societal institutions. As a society we are evidently struggling with our ambivalence toward the range of legitimate prohibitions and sanctions based on sexual orientation. For example, does withholding participation of openly gay people in military service, or termination of parental custody, or the limitation of participation in most organized religions provide a climate that encourages the targeting of gays for random aggressive responses?

Other interventions for discouraging antigay attacks should focus on developing constraints or inhibitors to acting on negative affect or impulsive acts toward vulnerable people. In her discussions of variables that perpetuate rape, Russell (1984) identified factors that reduce external (social) inhibitors to abuse perpetuation (e.g., ineffectiveness of institutions of social control and expectations of perpetrators that they will not be punished). Perhaps interventions such as the prospect of more stringent punishment as a consequence of "hate" crimes might help to deter some violent behaviors. Additional suggestions for bolstering institutions of social control were recommended by D'Augelli (1989) following his study of antigay discrimination and harassment in a university campus. He suggested that local law enforcement personnel be provided training in lesbian and gay issues, and that institutional policies be developed that contain "unequivocal statements that publicly affirm the unacceptability of discrimination based on sexual orientation" (p. 321).

The intervention methods identified above may be helpful but are not sufficient to address the continuing societal permissions that support homonegativity. We are undertaking a study of adolescent cognitive, affective, and behavioral homonegativity responses as our next step in understanding this process.

Authors' Note: The authors would like to thank Caryl Graham for her skillful and patient help in the preparation of this manuscript. In addition, we wish to thank the reviewers of this manuscript for their helpful suggestions.

TABLE 1: Descriptive Statistics and Intercorrelations

Variable          M       SD       Minimum      Maximum

Scale 4          66.3    12.3         36          90
Scale 5          62.0     9.0         46          92
Scale 9          69.2    11.9         40         106
Scale K          52.2     8.3         36          75
IAH[1]           71.3    15.3         40         100
SBS[b]           34.3    12.7         21          89


Scale 4          Scale 5    Scale 9     Scale K     IAH

Scale 5           .16
Scale 9           .30**      .12
Scale K           .22*       .01         .03
IAH               .01        .31 **      .09        .08
SBS               .13        .15         .23*.20    .40**

NOTE: N = 80.

a. IAH = Index of Attitudes Toward Homophobia.

b. SBS = Self-Report of Behavior Scale.

*p < .05; **p < .01.

TABLE 2: Standardized Canonical Coefficients and Correlations
         Between the Canonical Variates and Their Variables

              First Canonical Variate   Second Canonical Variate
Variable      Coefficient Correlation   Coefficient Correlation

Personality variables

Scale 4         .43         .32           -.09      .21
Scale 5        -.61        -.49            .70      .76
Scale 9         .46         .53            .67      .72
Scale K        -.60        -.53           -.04     -.08

Homonegative variables

IAH[a]          .15         .52          -1.08     -.85
SBS[b]          .93         .99            .57      .14

a. IAH = Index of Attitudes Toward Homophobia.

b. SBS = Self-Report of Behavior Scale.


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Sunita Patel received her M.A. in psychology from East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. She is completing a Ph. D. at the California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles, with a specialty in health psychology. She recently completed an internship at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center and is currently a neuropychology fellow at UCLA School of Medicine

Thomas E. Long, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. He is also Director of a private practice group Center for Psychological Services. He holds a diplomate in clinical psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. His current research interests include traumatic stress, cross-cultural differences, homonegativism, and naturalistic setting memory studies

Susan L. McCammon, Ph.D., is Director of the Women's Studies Program and Associate Professor of Psychology at East Carolina University. She teaches courses in women's studies, clinical psychology, and human sexuality. She is a coauthor of the recently published textbook Choices in Sexuality. She has also published in the area of traumatic stress studies and is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Traumatic Stress

Karl Wuensch, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at East Carolina University. His doctoral study was in comparative psychology and behavioral biology, but his research interests are quite catholic. He is especially interested in research applications of multivariate statistics.