The Association of Positive Sexual Health and Psychological Well-Being in Emerging Adulthood

Adena M. Galinsky, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Freya Sonenstein, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Sexual health policy documents, sexual script theory, youth development theory and the positive psychology literature all suggest that emerging adults in established heterosexual relationships who experience greater sexual pleasure also experience greater psychological well-being. In this study we explore this heretofore unproven association. Our sample consists of the (N=3,289) 19- to 25-year-old respondents with complete data in the third wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) who were still in a relationship of 3+-month duration with their most recent other-sex sexual partner. Using regression analysis, we examine the associations between sexual pleasure (enjoyment of receiving and performing oral sex and regularity of orgasm) and four aspects of well-being (empathy, autonomy, self-esteem and relationship quality) and one measure of the absence of well-being (depressive symptoms). We find some evidence of covariance, although the associations differ according to the measures examined and along gender lines.

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Presented in Session 79: Biosocial Investigations of Fertility, Sexuality and Reproductive Health