Monday, May 16, 2016

Fearing for the children – how living with children affects homophobic attitudes in Tbilisi

Following the controversial events of May 17, 2013, CRRC-Georgia conducted a survey in order to gauge the opinions and attitudes of the adult residents of Tbilisi towards homosexuals and their rights. Among the various outputs following the survey was  a series of blog posts exploring statistical predictors of homophobia. The findings indicated that a low level of education was one of the strongest predictors of homophobia among Tbilisi residents and that men had a higher probability of being homophobic than women, particularly when the men believed that homosexuality was an inborn rather than an acquired trait. This blog post looks deeper into the predictors of homophobia in Tbilisi by testing for a statistical relationship between homophobia and living in a household with one or more children under the age of 18. Our findings suggest that there is a significant relationship between these two variables, although it is different for men and women.

Unlike the previous series of blog posts on homophobia, weighted data is used for the descriptive analysis in order to make more accurate projections about the attitudes of Tbilisi residents. As was the case with the previous blog posts, we measure homophobia using the question, “[Whom] would you not wish to be your neighbor most?” Respondents were asked to choose one of the six groups presented on a show card: drug addicts, black people, adherents of a different religion, people having different political views, homosexuals, and criminals. Those who chose homosexuals (31% of those who answered this question) were deemed to be homophobic.

As the chart below shows, overall, there is no difference in the share of people reporting homophobic attitudes between those living in households with children and those living in households without children (32% and 31%, respectively). The findings, however, are very different separately for men and women. Specifically, we find that the share of Tbilisi females who are homophobic is 7% higher when one or more children live in their household, while it is 13% lower among men.

Logistic regression confirms the importance of having one or more children living in the household as a predictor of homophobic attitudes. According to the model, women with child(ren) in the household are 207% more likely to be homophobic when age, gender and education are controlled for. For men, though, the likelihood decreases.

So why do women tend to be more homophobic when they live with children, and why do men tend to be less homophobic? While further research focused specifically on this issue would be needed to determine the exact cause behind this finding, one possible explanation to the first part of the question is that women may be confusing homosexuality for pedophilia; another possibility is that women may be afraid that homosexuals potentially living next door might influence children into homosexuality (especially provided that, according to the findings presented in a previous blog post, women, more so than men, believe homosexuality to be an acquired trait). In regards to the second part of the question, men may feel that their masculinity has been confirmed once they have children (see here for more information), and thus they feel less threatened. It should be noted, however, that this latter explanation would only apply to those men who have their own children, while the survey data only tells us whether they live in a household with children, but not whether those children are or are not their offspring. For this reason, it may be useful in future studies to investigate the effect of having one’s own child(ren) on homophobic attitudes, in addition to more generally living with children.

The findings presented in this blog post show that women are more likely to be homophobic when there are child(ren) living in their household whereas the opposite is true for men. This finding suggests possible approaches to address homophobia, such as information programs speaking directly to mothers, and women in general, regarding the “nature versus nurture” debate, pedophilia, the nature of homosexual companionship, and the harms of viewing homosexuality as an abnormality. For men this may be more of a struggle with personal sexual identity and insecurities. In any case, a dialogue on the root-causes of homophobia is an important part to combating discrimination against sexual minorities.

The dataset of this survey, as well as respective documentation are available at CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

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