A Retrospective Study of Childhood Gender-Atypical Behavior in Samoan Fa'afafine

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Retrospective studies, mostly conducted in Western cultures, indicate that childhood cross-gender behaviors are strongly predictive of androphilia in adult men. To test the cross-cultural validity of these findings, we conducted a study of fa'afafine in Independent Samoa. Fa'afafine are a heterogeneous group of androphilic males, some of whom are unremarkably masculine, but most of whom behave in a feminine manner in adulthood. A total of 53 fa'afafine, 27 control men, and 24 control women participated. Participants were asked how often they engaged in female- and male-typical behaviors in childhood. Results demonstrated that fa'afafine and women recalled engaging in significantly more female-typical behaviors and significantly fewer male-typical behaviors in childhood compared to the men. Fa'afafine's recalled female-typical and male-typical behaviors did not differ significantly from those of women. These results suggest that the relationship in males between gender-atypical behavior in childhood and adult androphilia is not unique to Western societies and may be a cross-culturally universal pattern of psychosexual development shared by most males who are predominantly androphilic.

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