Year of Publication

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Kristen P. Mark

Abstract

Romantic couples with children struggle to balance the needs of their romantic relationships with the responsibilities of parenting and mothers report difficulty viewing themselves as sexual beings after having children. Understanding the risk and protective factors for sexual and relational outcomes for couples with children or those that may have children in the future may provide insight into the dynamics of these couples and the ways in which parents can preserve relational health over time. The current study utilized Basson’s Model of Sexual Response (2000) as a conceptual theoretical framework and the Actor Partner Interdependence Model (APIM; Kenny et al., 2006) as an analytic framework for conducting couple-level research on sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, sexual rewards and costs, and infidelity. The current study had the following four aims: 1) to develop and validate a reliable tool to measure individuals’ Attitudes Towards Mothers as Sexual Beings (ATMSB) in a sample of couples with and without children. 2) to assess differences in ATMSB and sexual/relational outcomes of ATMSB among couples with children and couples without children, 3) to examine the role of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in influencing sexual and relational outcomes among couples with children, and 4) to investigate the impact of positive communication, partner appraisals, and sexual rewards and costs on sexual and relational outcomes among couples with children. The current study collected data from 294 individuals in mixed sex (one man and one woman) couples through an online questionnaire. In the first study, the ATMSBscale items were developed and an exploratory factor analysis was conducted yielding the following three scale factors: 1) Quality of Motherhood and Sexuality, 2) Mothers’ Sexual Functioning, 3) Mothers’ Sexual Pleasure and Enjoyment with high construct validity. A series of multiple linear regressions and structural equation models (SEM) were conducted predicting sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and desire discrepancies. Results indicated that ATMSB total scores and individual subscale scores predicted sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, dyadic sexual desire and desire discrepancies with varying actor and partner effects among men and women with children and without children. These results indicated that when men and women endorse beliefs that mothers and sexuality are compatible, they have higher levels of sexual and relational health within the couple. Additionally, couples with children had more positive ATMSB overall and there were similarities and differences in the impact of ATMSB (and subscales) on sexual and relational outcomes between couples with children compared to those without children. In the second study, the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score on sexual desire, desire discrepancies, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, sexual rewards and costs, and infidelity was measured among couples with children. A logistic regression and a series of multiple linear models were conducted with results indicating that for women, ACE score predicted the equality of sexual costs (EQcst). For men, higher ACE scores predicted a greater likelihood of engaging infidelity. Results from the SEM indicated that men’s ACE score predicted women’s sense of equality of sexual costs among partners (EQcst). These results indicate that ACE scores are associated with negative sexual and relational outcomes among couples with children. In the third study, the impact of positive communication, partner appraisal, and rewards and costs of the sexual relationship on sexual desire, desire discrepancies, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction was measured among couples with children. A series of multiple linear regressions and a SEM were conducted with results indicating that when individuals engage in more positive communication strategies, they have significantly higher levels of sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction as do their partners. More positive partner appraisals were associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction for men and women and their partners. As a whole, a number of risk and protective factors were identified for sexual and romantic relationships among couples with children. Implications for future research, clinical work and health promotion programing targeting parents are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2018.093

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