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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Valerie Simon


There is substantial evidence in the literature linking individual sexuality and sexual behaviors, attitudes, and experiences (Cyranowski, Aarestad, & Andersen, 1999). However, no previous studies have examined individual sexuality within the romantic dyad and its associations to relationship functioning. The purpose of the current study was to determine the similarities and differences between heterosexual romantic partners' sexual self-schemas and how their sexual self-schemas relate to their own and their partners' perceptions of relationship functioning. Specifically, we expected that male and female romantic partners' sexual self-schemas would be positively associated with each other, and that there would be actor and partner effects of one's own and one's partners' sexual self-schemas on sexual communication, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction within the romantic relationship.

Data was collected using audio-assisted computer software to administer 11 questionnaires. Participants consisted of 74 undergraduate student volunteers and their romantic partners (n=146) who had been in a heterosexual dating relationship of at least six months duration. They ranged in age from 18 to 24 years and were not married, engaged, or living with their romantic partners. Participants completed multiple questionnaires assessing their current relationship history, sexual self-schema, sexual communication, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and religiosity.

Male and female romantic partners reported similarities on certain aspects of their sexual self-schema, including sexual body-esteem, sense of entitlement to sexual pleasure from partner, self-efficacy in achieving sexual pleasure, and sexual self-reflection. They also reported significant differences on other aspects, including overall sexual self-schema total score, endorsement of open-liberal adjectives to describe themselves, and sense of entitlement to sexual pleasure from self. Significant pathways were found in the proposed conceptual models, but they differentiated by gender. More specifically, there was a significant actor effect for male sexual self-schema on sexual satisfaction and sexual communication, and a significant actor effect for female sexual self-schema on relationship satisfaction.

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