Washington, Jan 17 : Bisexuality is a distinctive sexual orientation and not a transitional phase among women, as it is thought to be.
The analysis revealed that bisexual and unlabeled women were more likely than lesbians to change their identity over the course of the study, but they tended to switch between bisexual and unlabeled rather than to settle on lesbian or heterosexual as their identities.
The study, conducted by Lisa M. Diamond, PhD, psychologist at University of Utah, debunks stereotype that bisexual women can't commit to long-term relationships.
"This research provides the first empirical examination of competing assumptions about the nature of bisexuality, both as a sexual identity label and as a pattern of nonexclusive sexual attraction and behaviour," Diamond said.
"The findings demonstrate considerable fluidity in bisexual, unlabeled and lesbian women's attractions, behaviours and identities and contribute to researchers' understanding of the complexity of sexual-minority development over the life span," she added.
In the study, the researcher used interview data collected five times over a decade from 79 women who identified as lesbian, bisexual or unlabeled. The subjects initially ranged in age from 18 to 25 years old.
Seventeen percent of respondents switched from a bisexual or unlabeled identity to heterosexual during the study -- but more than half of these women switched back to bisexual or unlabeled by the end.
At the end of the study, most of the women were involved in long-term (i.e., more than a year in length) monogamous relationships -- 70 percent of the self-identified lesbians, 89 percent of the bisexuals, 85 percent of the unlabeled women and 67 percent of those who were then calling themselves heterosexual.
"This provides further support for the notion that female sexuality is relatively fluid and that the distinction between lesbian and bisexual women is not a rigid one," Diamond said.
The study is published in the American Psychological Association.