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Attachment insecurity and sexual communication in cohabiting mixed-sex couples

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Talking openly and constructively about sexual issues, such as sexual needs and preferences, is critical to the development and maintenance of mutually satisfying sexual relationships (e.g., Cupach & Comstock, 1990). Attachment insecurity (i.e., attachment anxiety and avoidance) may impede individuals’ and their partners’ sexual communication, and thus poor quality sexual communication could mediate negative associations between attachment insecurity and individuals’ and partners’ sexual satisfaction. Using an Actor-Partner Interdependence Mediation Model (APIMeM; Ledermann, Macho, & Kenny, 2011), I tested this mediation model cross-sectionally and longitudinally with a dyadic parallel process latent growth curve model in 125 couples over one year. Contemporaneously, both partners’ perceptions of sexual communication mediated negative indirect effects of attachment anxiety on individuals’ and partners’ sexual satisfaction, and a negative indirect effect of attachment avoidance on individuals’ sexual satisfaction. Unexpectedly, attachment avoidance was positively associated with partners’ perceptions of sexual communication, and there was a positive indirect effect of attachment avoidance on partner sexual satisfaction. Further, attachment anxiety and avoidance were not associated with declines in sexual communication quality or sexual satisfaction over one year, but for women, declines in sexual communication predicted declines in sexual satisfaction. In sum, attachment insecurity was associated with individuals’ and partners’ (for anxiety) contemporaneous perceptions of poorer quality sexual communication and lower sexual satisfaction, and declines in sexual communication eroded sexual satisfaction over time for women. Thus, improving sexual communication may be an important pathway to increasing sexual satisfaction.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Cobb, Rebecca
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