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Case Overview: Alfred Kinsey

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Alfred C. Kinsey (1894-1956), the oldest of three children, was born to evangelical Protestant parents during a time of extreme conservatism (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). The Kinsey family struggled financially, according to biographical author James Jones (1997). Kinsey's mother accomplished little formal education whereas his father taught at Stevens Institute of Technology (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). Jones (1997) wrote Kinsey suffered from poor health as a child, but the family was ill-equipped to provide appropriate medical attention. Kinsey developed long-term physical effects from improper care. Kinsey's parents displayed little affection for each other or the children (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). Kinsey compensated for the lack of connection by seeking validation through academic studies, specifically biology.

Alfred Kinsey left high school as high school valedictorian and attempted college at Stevens Institute for Technology in 1912 at the demands of his father (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). Kinsey transferred after two years, despite his father's disapproval, to major in biology and psychology at Bowdoin College (Jones, 1997). Kinsey's father did not attend commencement, further solidifying the estranged relationship. Kinsey graduated from Harvard University with a doctorate of science in 1920 and within one year made faculty as assistant professor teaching botany and zoology (Brown & Fee, 2003). Kinsey stepped away from strict, oppressive religious dogma and embraced the scientific process by the encouragement of William Wheeler and H.L. Mencken while at Harvard University (Jones, 1997).

Kinsey went on to teach entomology at Indiana University and reached full professor by 1929 (Brown & Fee, 2003). Kinsey changed directions in 1936 when his entomology books did not garner him an invitation to teach for an ivy-league university (Jones, 1997). In 1938 Kinsey agreed to teach a marriage and family course for Indiana University to which the "high points of the course were Kinsey's illustrated lectures on the biology of sexual stimulation, the mechanics of intercourse, and the techniques of contraception, as were his spirited denunciations of repressive laws and social attitudes" (Brown & Fee, 2003, p. 896). Students flocked to his course and by 1940 enrollments reached 400. Kinsey challenged "conventional ideas of normal sexual behavior with a new biological definition: 'nearly all the so-called sexual perversions fall within the range of biological normality'" (Jones, 1997, p. 333, as cited in Brown & Fee, 2003). The drive to break free of the forced morality of his father spurred Kinsey into his infamous research of the human sexual experience, subsequent books, and Institute of Sex Research at Indiana University (Brown & Fee, 2003). Three key factors contributed to Kinsey's focus and infatuation with sexuality; they are biological, psychological, and social (Plante, 2011).

Factors Involved

Alfred Kinsey struggled with his biology from an early age. The impoverished environment and lack of adequate care triggered genetic predispositions to illnesses such as rickets, typhoid fever, and rheumatic fever (Jones, 1997). Rickets caused his body to stoop creating a slightly diminished physical presence,

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