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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Zachary Brewster


Healthy communication regarding sexuality has been shown to be important to relationship quality within the context of long-term committed romantic relationships. Additionally, those who have avenues for communication about sexuality elsewhere in life—among friends, family, etc.—have better mental health outcomes more generally; and peers have consistently been among those with whom individuals are most comfortable discussing sexuality. This study assesses reasons individuals experience social barriers to openly discussing personal aspects of sex and sexuality with their close friends. The study uses a survey experiment to test for differences in perceived barriers to participating in a group discussion among friends when the topic relates to sexuality versus a general topic. Barriers to communication are not found to be stronger in sexual discussions, except among those with marginalized identities. Additionally, higher overall barriers to communication are associated with lower self-esteem and higher mental distress. The applied and theoretical implications of these results are discussed.

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