Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 2429–2444 | Cite as

A Model of Female Sexual Desire: Internalized Working Models of Parent–Child Relationships and Sexual Body Self-Representations

  • Eugenia Cherkasskaya
  • Margaret Rosario
Original Paper


The etiology of low female sexual desire, the most prevalent sexual complaint in women, is multi-determined, implicating biological and psychological factors, including women’s early parent–child relationships and bodily self-representations. The current study evaluated a model that hypothesized that sexual body self-representations (sexual subjectivity, self-objectification, genital self-image) explain (i.e., mediate) the relation between internalized working models of parent–child relationships (attachment, separation–individuation, parental identification) and sexual desire in heterosexual women. We recruited 614 young, heterosexual women (M = 25.5 years, SD = 4.63) through social media. The women completed an online survey. Structural equation modeling was used. The hypotheses were supported in that the relation between internalized working models of parent–child relationships (attachment and separation–individuation) and sexual desire was mediated by sexual body self-representations (sexual body esteem, self-objectification, genital self-image). However, parental identification was not related significantly to sexual body self-representations or sexual desire in the model. Current findings demonstrated that understanding female sexual desire necessitates considering women’s internalized working models of early parent–child relationships and their experiences of their bodies in a sexual context. Treatment of low or absent desire in women would benefit from modalities that emphasize early parent–child relationships as well as interventions that foster mind–body integration.


Female sexual desire Attachment Separation–individuation Sexual subjectivity Self-objectification Genital self-image 



This article was supported by the Far Fund, a private foundation in New York, NY. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Far Fund. The senior author was at the City University of New York—The Graduate Center when and where the research was conducted. Preliminary data were presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Tampa, FL, USA.


This study was funded by the Far Fund, a private foundation in New York.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Counseling and Psychological Services, Columbia HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, City College and Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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