Researchers at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction are shedding light on why some women experience sexual problems and others do not.
A study published in the April issue of the journal "Archives of Sexual Behavior" found connections between personality traits such as sexual inhibition and sexual problems.
While previous studies have explored the role demographics such as age, education and socio-economic status play in sexual functioning among women, few have explored the role differences in personality play in predicting current and lifetime sexual problems. In this study, women's sexual inhibition tendencies were more important than other factors in predicting sexual problems.
"Although further research is needed to confirm these findings with other samples, particularly clinical samples of women seeking help for sexual problems, these findings suggest that high scores on sexual inhibition may help predict which women are vulnerable to experience sexual problems," said Cynthia Graham, research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and co-author of the paper. "They may also be used as prognostic factors in treatment studies."
Researchers studied the responses of 540 women on the Sexual Excitation/Sexual Inhibition Inventory for Women that rated current and sexual problems, lifetime arousal difficulty and lifetime problems with low sexual interest. The strongest predictors of reports of sexual problems were women's sexual inhibition scores. Below are some of the findings:
Sexual inhibition scores were the strongest predictor of current and past sexual problems including lifetime arousal difficulty and low sexual interest. They were better predictors than demographic and background factors such as age, socio-economic status, and whether or not women were in a sexual relationship.
"Arousal Contingency" or the ease with which arousal can be disrupted by situational factors, and "Concerns about Sexual Function" were the two most predictive of women's sexual problems.
The Kinsey Institute has been developing, testing and fine-tuning the dual control model of sexual response, which is the basis for the Sexual Excitation/Sexual Inhibition Inventory for Women used in this study. This theoretical model reflects the idea that sexual response in individuals is the product of a balance between excitatory and inhibitory processes. Researchers believe these two systems operate somewhat independent of each other and are different in each person.
Researchers are using the dual control model to better understand such complex issues as sexual difficulties, sexual compulsivity and high-risk sexual behaviors. Prior studies have found that while sexual inhibition plays an important protective role in restraining sexual responses, individuals who score highly in inhibition might be more likely to experience sexual problems.
This particular study aimed to gain insight into the role of inhibition and excitation proneness in predicting sexual problems in a non-clinical sample of women.
Co-authors of the study are Stephanie A. Sanders, Kinsey Institute; and Robin R. Milhausen, University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
"Factors that Influence Sexual Arousal in Men: A Focus Group Study," Archives of Sexual Behavior, April, 2008. Vol. 37, No. 2.
Materials provided by Indiana University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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