Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Lab Director & Department Chair
Ritch C. Savin-Williams is professor and chair of Human Development at Cornell University. He received the Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he studied sex differences in dominance hierarchy formation at summer camp. His courses are cross-listed with Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
Dr. Savin-Williams has written seven books on adolescent development. The latest, The New Gay Teenager (Harvard University Press, 2005) follows previous books on the lives of youth with same-sex attractions: “Mom, Dad. I’m Gay.” How Families Negotiate Coming Out” (American Psychological Association, 2001), ". . . And Then I Became Gay." Young Men's Stories (Routledge, 1998), and Gay and Lesbian Youth: Expressions of Identity (Hemisphere, 1990). With Kenneth M. Cohen, Dr. Savin-Williams co-edited an undergraduate textbook on sexual minorities: The Lives of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals: Children to Adults (Harcourt Brace, 1996).
Dr. Savin-Williams is currently writing about the experiences of growing up with same-sex attractions, the resiliency and mental health of sexual-minority youth, and the sexual development of heterosexual youth. His research on differential developmental trajectories attempts to supplant our generic, stage models of identity development with a perspective that explores the similarities of sexual-minority youth with all youth and the ways in which sexual-minority adolescents vary among themselves and from heterosexual youth.
Dr. Savin-Williams is also a licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice specializing in identity, relationship, and family issues among sexual-minority young adults. He has served as an expert witness on same-sex marriage, gay adoption, and Boy Scout court cases and is on numerous professional review boards. He has served as a consultant for MTV, 20/20, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN and his work has been cited in Newsweek, Time, Rolling Stone, Parent Magazine, Utne Reader, New York Magazine, Fortune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Chicago Sun Times. Dr. Savin-Williams received the 2001 Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution, the 2005 Outstanding Book Award from Division 44 of the American Psychological Association for The New Gay Teenager, the 2006 APA Science Directorate’s Master Lecture in developmental psychology, and fellow status from the Association for Psychological Science. He has also written junior high school curriculum materials for the Unitarian Universalist Association, Beyond Pink and Blue: Exploring Our Stereotypes of Sexuality and Gender.
2005 Harvard University Press (now in paperback;
Savin-Williams, R. C. (2008) Then and now: Recruitment, definition, diversity, and positive attributes of same-sex populations. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 135-138.
ABSTRACT—It is not my intent to critique individual contributions in this special issue
but to assess scholarly progress since the last special issue devoted to sexual
orientation in Developmental Psychology. Because not all
steps forward can be cataloged in this limited forum, I focus on several
long-standing challenges faced by developmental scientists as they investigate
same-sex sexuality: recruitment and definition of same-sex populations,
developmental diversity of same-sex oriented individuals, and “clinical traps”
created by early research on same-sex populations.
Savin-Williams, R. C., & Ream,
G. L. (2007). Prevalence and stability of sexual orientation components during
adolescence and young adulthood. Archives
of Sexual Behavior, 36, 385-394.
of three waves (6 years) of the National Longitudinal Survey of
Adolescent Health data explored the prevalence and stability of sexual
orientation and whether these two parameters varied by biologic sex,
sexual orientation component (romantic attraction, sexual behavior,
sexual identity), and degree of component. Prevalence rates for
nonheterosexuality varied between 1 and 15% and depended on biologic
sex (higher among females), sexual orientation component (highest for
romantic attraction), degree of component (highest if “mostly
heterosexual” was included with identity), and the interaction of these
(highest for nonheterosexual identity among females). Although kappa
statistics testing for temporal stability across waves were
significant, they failed to reach acceptable levels of agreement and
could be largely attributable to the stability of opposite-sex rather
than same-sex attraction and behavior. Migration over time among sexual
orientation components was in both directions, from opposite-sex
attraction and behavior to same-sex attraction and behavior and vice
versa. To assess sexual orientation, investigators should measure
multiple components over time or abandon the general notion of sexual
orientation and measure only those components relevant for the research
http://www.springerlink.com/content/5j12365317274508/fulltext.pdfSavin-Williams, R. C. (2006).
Who’s gay? Does it matter? Current
Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 40-44.
ABSTRACT—To answer the question ‘‘Who’s gay?’’—and its logical follow-up, ‘‘Does it matter?’’—researchers usually define homosexuality with reference to one of three componentsor expressions of sexual orientation: sexual/romantic attraction or arousal, sexual behavior, and sexual identity. Yet, the three components are imperfectly correlated and inconsistently predictive of each other, resulting in dissimilar conclusions regarding the number and nature of homosexual populations. Depending on which component is assessed, the prevalence rate of homosexuality in the general population ranges from1 to 21%. When investigators define the homosexual population based on same-sex behavior or identity, they enhance the possibility of finding a biological basis for homosexuality and compromised mental health (suicidality).