INTRODUCTION: 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.
AIM: 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.
METHODS: Two hundred 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.
RESULTS: 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.
CONCLUSIONS: 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.