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Hendin, H. (1978). Homosexuality: The Psychosocial Dimension. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 6:479-496.

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(1978). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 6:479-496

Homosexuality: The Psychosocial Dimension

Herbert Hendin

Homosexuality, suicide, crime, and drug and alcohol abuse appear to be barometers of social stress. In the case of homosexuality, the work of Abram Kardiner and Ralph Linton made us aware of how sensitive a barometer homosexuality can be.

Anthropologists had observed that relatively uncompetitive primitive cultures such as those that do not distinguish or reward the best hunters in distinction to the other men in the tribe have virtually no homosexuality. These observations took on added significance when Kardiner and Linton, in a psychoanalytic anthropological study of Tanala, examined homosexuality in the context of the entire Tanalese culture (1939). They showed that a dramatic rise in homosexuality when social and economic forces inflamed competitiveness was one of several manifestations of frustrated rage (crime was another) among young men who were having particular difficulty with the pressures the culture was exerting on them. How cultures resolve problems of competition and the aggression it arouses seems to be as critical a factor as relations between the sexes and in families in determining whether the incidence of homosexuality in any culture is high or low.

Homosexuality and other barometers of social stress arouse a concern that extends beyond the affected individual and his immediate family because they seem to threaten values that most communities have believed essential for survival. In reviewing the contribution of anthropology to our knowledge of homosexuality, Martin Opler points out that homosexuality in practically all cultures is regarded as a deviation from the majority values and norms of conduct (1965, p. 114). George Devereux's comprehensive psychoanalytic study of homosexuality among the Mohave made

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* Director of Center for Psychosocial Studies, F.D.R. VA Health Care Facility, Montrose, New York. Also visiting Professor of Psychiatry at New York Medical College.

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