Intimacy Mediates the Relation Between Maltreatment in Childhood and Sexual and Relationship Satisfaction in Adulthood: A Dyadic Longitudinal Analysis
Trauma theories suggest that childhood maltreatment (CM) may partly explain intimacy problems in romantic relationships. However, empirical studies have yielded conflicting findings, likely due to the varying conceptualizations of intimacy. Findings that support long-term negative effects of CM on sexual and relationship satisfaction are almost exclusively based on cross-sectional intra-individual data, precluding the examination of mediating pathways and of dyadic interactions between individuals reporting CM and their partners. This study used a dyadic perspective to examine the associations between CM and the different components of intimacy based on the interpersonal process model of intimacy: self-disclosure, perceived partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness. We also tested the mediating role of these intimacy components at Time 1 in the relations between CM and sexual and relationship satisfaction 6 months later. A sample of 365 heterosexual couples completed self-report questionnaires. Results of path analyses within an actor–partner interdependence framework showed that women and men’s higher levels of CM did not affect self-disclosure, but was negatively associated with their own perception of partner disclosure and responsiveness. In turn, women and men’s perception of partner responsiveness at Time 1 was positively associated with their own sexual satisfaction, as well as their own and their partner’s relationship satisfaction at Time 2. Thus, perception of partner responsiveness mediated the associations between CM and poorer sexual and relationship satisfaction. The overall findings may inform the development of couple intervention that targets the enhancement of intimacy to promote sexual and relationship well-being in couples where one partner experienced CM.
KeywordsChildhood maltreatment Intimacy Sexual satisfaction Relationship satisfaction Dyadic analysis
The authors would like to thank Laurence de Montigny Gauthier and Mylène Desrosiers for their assistance with data collection.
This study was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel and by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to Sophie Bergeron.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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