New research published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy suggests that people’s reasons for having sex, or sexual motives, can affect how attachment anxiety affects sexual satisfaction among couples expecting their first child. The findings indicate that understanding the role of sexual motives in the relationship between attachment anxiety and sexual satisfaction could be useful for clinicians working with pregnant couples experiencing relationship difficulties.
Pregnancy is a critical life period for couples, during which they may experience significant changes in their sexual relationship. Previous research has shown that pregnancy can affect sexual motivation and satisfaction in various ways. For example, hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to changes in sexual desire and arousal. At the same time, physical discomfort or concerns about the health of the fetus may reduce sexual activity or satisfaction.
Additionally, attachment insecurities have been found to be associated with lower levels of sexual satisfaction among couples in general. However, little is known about how attachment insecurities and sexual motives affect sexual satisfaction, specifically during pregnancy. Audrey Brassard and colleagues aimed to address this gap in the literature by examining links between these variables among couples expecting their first child.
The participants included 204 French-Canadian couples expecting their first child. They were recruited as part of a more extensive ongoing prospective study on the trajectories of sexual and relational well-being in couples transitioning to parenthood.
Participants completed a battery of questionnaires that assessed their attachment style, sexual motives, and sexual satisfaction. Attachment style was measured using the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised questionnaire, which assesses anxiety and avoidance dimensions of attachment insecurity. Sexual motives were assessed using the Sexual Motives Questionnaire-Revised, which measures four motives: enhancement, intimacy, coping, and approval. Sexual satisfaction was measured using the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction.
The results revealed that individuals with higher attachment anxiety also reported lower sexual satisfaction. For women high in attachment avoidance, a similar association was found. Those reporting sexual enhancement motives (sexual motivations that are focused on increasing pleasure, intimacy, and excitement in sexual activities) reported more sexual satisfaction.
For women who were motivated by approval, their sexual satisfaction declined. Men motivated by coping motives or the desire to use sex to improve mood or relieve stress reported higher rates of sexual satisfaction. Curiously, intimacy motives had no impact on sexual satisfaction for either gender.
The study also found that enhancement motives for both men and women partially mediated the relationship between attachment anxiety and sexual satisfaction. The relationship between attachment avoidance and sexual satisfaction was partially mediated by approval motives for women only.
The findings suggest that attachment insecurities can significantly impact sexual satisfaction during pregnancy. Specifically, individuals who are more anxious or avoidant in their attachments may experience lower levels of sexual satisfaction due to their underlying fears or concerns about intimacy or rejection. However, certain sexual motives may help mitigate these adverse effects by enhancing positive experiences or reducing negative ones.
The study also highlights the importance of considering gender differences in the relationship between attachment insecurities, sexual motives, and sexual satisfaction. Women who are more avoidant may be particularly vulnerable to negative effects on sexual satisfaction due to approval motives, which may reflect a desire to conform to traditional gender roles or expectations. Men who use coping motives may experience higher levels of sexual satisfaction due to their ability to use sex to manage stress or anxiety.
The research team acknowledged that there were limitations to their work. First, the sample was relatively homogenous in terms of gender, sexual orientation, and cultural background. Future research should aim to recruit more diverse samples to increase the generalizability of the findings. Second, the study relied on self-reported measures, which may be subject to social desirability or other response biases. Third, the cross-sectional study limits the ability to draw causal conclusions about the relationships between attachment insecurities, sexual motives, and sexual satisfaction.
Finally, it is important to note that the study focused specifically on couples expecting their first child. The findings may not generalize to other stages of the reproductive cycle or to couples who have already had children.
Despite these limitations, the study provided valuable insights into the complex interplay between attachment insecurities, sexual motives, and sexual satisfaction among couples expecting their first child. Clinicians working with expectant parents may benefit from considering attachment style and sexual motives when addressing issues related to sexual satisfaction during pregnancy.
The study, “Attachment, sexual motives, and sexual satisfaction among couples expecting their first child,” was authored by Audrey Brassard, Mégane Vallée-Destrempes, Marie-Andrée Binet, Anne Brault-Labbé, Marie-France Lafontaine, and Katherine Péloquin.