Examining the personal and societal factors that inform the development of an asexual identity: a qualitative and quantitative enquiry
University College Cork
As the prevalence of those expressing a lack of sexual attraction continues to rise, so too does the need for research to fully uncover the nature of asexuality and the experiences of asexual people. The asexual community, allies and researchers alike, are becoming increasingly concerned with discovering the processes that surround asexual identity development and in doing so, gain a more nuanced understanding of the diverse nature of the orientation. Moreover, while distinctions within the asexual community are becoming increasingly recognised and understood, there remains little empirical evidence in understanding how experiences differ across the asexual spectrum, as well as the intersection of gender roles and romantic identities. Through a series of publications, this thesis examines unique features of asexual identities within the context of both a heteronormative and allonormative society. Study one (chapter three) presents a scoping review of literature and synthesisation of all available evidence in the area of asexual identity development, and highlights gaps present within research. This review outlines how both heteronormative and allonormative beliefs cause many individuals to adopt negative attitudes towards their asexuality and hinders the development of a positive self-concept. Moreover, findings of this study inform the design and protocol for research presented in chapters five, seven and nine, and confirms the absence of a psychometric scale measuring dimensions of asexual identity development. Informed by the findings of the scoping review, study two (chapter five) presents an interpretative phenomenological analysis of the accounts of five self-identified asexual women. Findings from this study highlight the role of romantic orientation within asexual identity development and inspire the next step in this research to compare the experiences of romantic and aromantic asexual people. Through a thematic analysis of the accounts of 99 asexual people, study three (chapter seven) demonstrates the intersection of gender roles and romantic orientation within asexual identity development. By focusing on the diverse nature of the asexual community, this research provides a more comprehensive insight into the complexity of this experience and contributes towards the development of a more robust and psychometrically sound measure. The final study (chapter nine) cumulates in the development and evaluation of the 37-item Assessment of Asexual Identity Development Scale (AAID). As the first psychometric measure of its kind, the AAID measures variables unique to asexuality and accurately assesses dimensions of the lives of asexual people. This thesis acts as a significant contribution to our understanding of the key concepts and experiences that underly the development of an asexual identity. Findings correspond with current theoretical models of both non-heterosexual and asexual identity development, and experiences of minority stress that arise from both a heteronormative and allonormative society. Moreover, this thesis provides an account of the varying developmental trajectories witnessed among people of an asexual identity and presents a more inclusive insight into the experience of being asexual. This research also contributes towards a growing recognition of the variability that exists within the asexual community and elicits the voices of a range of asexual individuals.
Asexuality , Identity development , Internalisation , Mixed-methods
Kelleher, S. 2023. Examining the personal and societal factors that inform the development of an asexual identity: a qualitative and quantitative enquiry. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.