Sexual Orientation Prototypicality and Well-Being Among Heterosexual and Sexual Minority Adults

Brian A. Feinstein*, Nathalie Meuwly, Joanne Davila, Nicholas R. Eaton, Athena Yoneda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The current study examined the associations between sexual orientation prototypicality—or the extent to which an individual’s attractions or sexual behaviors are similar to others in the same sexual orientation category—and several indicators of well-being (depressive symptoms, loneliness, and self-esteem). Data were analyzed from a sample of 586 self-identified heterosexual and sexual minority (lesbian/gay and bisexual) men and women who completed an online survey. We used k-means cluster analysis to assign individuals to sexual orientation clusters (resulting in heterosexual and sexual minority clusters) based on dimensions of same-sex and other-sex attractions (emotional, romantic, and sexual) and sexual behavior. Sexual orientation prototypicality was operationalized as the Euclidean distance between an individual’s position in the cluster and their cluster centroid. Lower sexual orientation prototypicality (i.e., greater Euclidean distance from one’s cluster centroid) was significantly associated with higher depressive symptoms, higher loneliness, and lower self-esteem for men and women; results did not significantly differ for self-identified heterosexuals versus sexual minorities. Although self-identified sexual orientation and sexual orientation prototypicality were both associated with well-being for women, only sexual orientation prototypicality was associated with well-being for men. Findings suggest that sexual orientation prototypicality may be a better indicator of well-being than sexual orientation for men. Further, sexual orientation prototypicality appears to play a significant role in well-being for women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1415-1422
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 17 2015


  • Bisexual
  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • Prototypicality
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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