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Psychological Factors Involved in Sexual Desire, Sexual Activity, and Sexual Satisfaction: A Multi-factorial Perspective


This study explored the role of psychological trait factors in sexual desire and sexual activity. In particular, it investigated how these factors may contribute to maintaining a balance between motivational aspects and self-control abilities, as both have been considered important in relation to adaptive sexuality. Moreover, the study explored the relationship between sexual desire, activity, and satisfaction. Participants completed questionnaires assessing sexual desire (dyadic, solitary), sexual activity (with a partner, alone), sexual satisfaction, approach and avoidance motivation, attachment, self-control, sensation seeking, and mindfulness. Cluster analyses, based on participants’ level of sexual desire and sexual activity, highlighted three distinct profiles for each gender related to different types of psychological functioning: (a) participants with high dyadic sexual desire and activity were the most sexually satisfied, showed optimal psychological functioning, and were characterized by a balance between motivational tendencies to seek positive rewards and self-control abilities (high approach motivation, secure attachment, high self-control, high mindfulness); (b) participants with high dyadic and solitary sexual desire and activity were moderately satisfied and showed a type of psychological functioning predominantly characterized by impulsivity (an overly high motivation to obtain rewards in women, and low self-control in men); (c) participants with low dyadic sexual desire and activity were the least sexually satisfied and were characterized by high motivation to avoid negative consequences and low self-control (high avoidance motivation, insecure attachment, and poor mindfulness). These results shed further light on how fundamental psychological factors contribute to explain the individual variability in sexual desire, activity, and satisfaction.

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This research was part of the project “Sexual desire: An interdisciplinary approach” funded by the Maurice Chalumeau Fund from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. The authors would like to thank the colleagues of the project “Sexual Desire” who provided thoughtful comments and suggestions on the analyses. A special thanks to Nadia Ammar, for her valuable comments and proofreading on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Correspondence to Alessandra Dosch.

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Dosch, A., Rochat, L., Ghisletta, P. et al. Psychological Factors Involved in Sexual Desire, Sexual Activity, and Sexual Satisfaction: A Multi-factorial Perspective. Arch Sex Behav 45, 2029–2045 (2016).

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  • Sexual desire and satisfaction
  • Motivation
  • Attachment
  • Impulsivity
  • Mindfulness