Sexual satisfaction and the coorientation of preferred sexual practices in couples

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Michael P. Carey


dyadic communication, understanding, agreement, Psychotherapy, Social psychology, Personal relationships

Subject Categories



The purposes of this research were (a) to study the relationship between sexual communication and sexual satisfaction, and (b) to refine the "coorientation" method of communication research. Seventy-six cohabiting heterosexual couples responded to a series of measures, including the Inventory of Dyadic Heterosexual Preferences (IDHP) and a modified version of the IDHP, which asks each partner to estimate the sexual preferences of the other (IDHP-O). Partners' Understanding of each other's preferences, Agreement (similarity) between their preferences, and Perceived Agreement were calculated according to three competing methods. Results identified the method that produced the least amount of error variance and this method was used in all further analyses. Simple correlations showed both partners' sexual dissatisfaction to be associated with lower Agreement and with lower male Understanding of the female's preferences. Evidence supported the convergent and discriminant validity of male Understanding and was mixed in regard to Agreement. Partial correlations indicated that these two variables each explained unique variance associated with sexual satisfaction. Hierarchical multiple regression supported their contribution, independent of the influence of dyadic adjustment, depression, and female education. Stepwise multiple regression models retained male Understanding among the carriers and accounted for 51% and 63% of the variance in the sexual satisfaction of men and women, respectively. A theoretical explanation of the role of Understanding is proposed, accounting for gender differences in this variable. Results illuminate the specific functions of communication in maintaining a satisfying sexual relationship and demonstrate the usefulness of dyadic coorientation research methods. This study's findings are compared with existing research and areas for further research are suggested.