When individuals grow up with autonomy-thwarting parents, they may be prevented from exploring internally endorsed values and identities and as a result shut out aspects of the self perceived to be unacceptable. Given the stigmatization of homosexuality, individuals perceiving low autonomy support from parents may be especially motivated to conceal same-sex sexual attraction, leading to defensive processes such as reaction formation. Four studies tested a model wherein perceived parental autonomy support is associated with lower discrepancies between self-reported sexual orientation and implicit sexual orientation (assessed with a reaction time task). These indices interacted to predict anti-gay responding indicative of reaction formation. Studies 2-4 showed that an implicit/explicit discrepancy was particularly pronounced in participants who experienced their fathers as both low in autonomy support and homophobic, though results were inconsistent for mothers. Findings of Study 3 suggested contingent self-esteem as a link between parenting styles and discrepancies in sexual orientation measures.
- Self-determination theory