Correlates of female sexual functioning : adult attachment and differentiation of self

Burri, Andrea, Schweitzer, Robert, & O'Brien, Jessica (2014) Correlates of female sexual functioning : adult attachment and differentiation of self. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11(9), pp. 2188-2195.

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Female sexual functioning is affected by a range of factors including motivation, psychological well-being, and relationship issues. In understanding female sexual dysfunction (FSD), there has been a tendency to privilege diagnostic and medical over relationship issues.


To investigate the association between women’s experience of intimacy in close relationships - operationalized in terms of attachment and degree of differentiation of self - and FSD.


Two hundred and thirty sexually active Australian women responded to an invitation to complete a set of validated scales to assess potential correlates of sexual functioning.

Main Outcome Measures

The Female Sexuality Function Index, the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale, the Differentiation of Self Inventory, as well as a set of study-specific questions were subject to hierarchical multiple regression analyses


Relational variables of attachment avoidance and to a lesser degree, attachment anxiety were associated with FSD. Participants with lower levels of differentiation of self were more likely to report sexual difficulties. The inability to maintain a sense of self in the presence of intimate others was the strongest predictors of sexual problems. A history of sexual abuse in adulthood and higher levels of psychological distress were also associated with sexual difficulties.


The findings provide support for a relational understanding of female sexual functioning. Attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, and degree of differentiation of self are shown to be associated with sexual difficulties. The findings support the need to focus on relational and psychological factors in women’s experience of sex.

Impact and interest:

7 citations in Scopus
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7 citations in Web of Science®

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8 since deposited on 12 May 2014
3 in the past twelve months

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ID Code: 71340
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: sexual functioning, attachment, sexual dysfunctions, differentiation, relationships, female, correlations
DOI: 10.1111/jsm.12561
ISSN: 1743-6109
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Health Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 International Society for Sexual Medicine
Deposited On: 12 May 2014 03:49
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2015 23:49

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