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Sexual Anxiety Mediates Dyadic Associations Between Body Satisfaction and Sexual Quality in Mixed-Sex Couples


Body satisfaction predicts sexual quality among women and men; however, mechanisms of the association are largely unknown. We hypothesized that sexual anxiety would mediate average associations over 1 year between individuals’ body satisfaction and their own and their partner’s sexual quality, which is comprised of their sexual satisfaction and dissatisfaction, in 123 mixed-sex cohabiting couples. Results of Actor–Partner Interdependence Models extended to Mediation (APIMeM) and tested via multilevel modelling partially supported the hypotheses. Specifically, individuals’ body satisfaction indirectly predicted their own and their partner’s sexual satisfaction through individuals’ sexual anxiety, and indirectly predicted their own, but not their partner’s sexual dissatisfaction through individuals’ sexual anxiety. Thus, when individuals are relatively less satisfied with their bodies, they may experience anxiety during sexual encounters, which then interferes with their own and their partner’s sexual quality.

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This project is based on Marissa Bowsfield’s M.A. thesis and was funded by an institutional Vice President’s Research Grant (4A) through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (Simon Fraser University, 2013s0647, 2017s0495) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


Provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Internal Vice President’s Research Grant [4A]).

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Correspondence to Marissa L. Bowsfield.

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This article, which includes a study involving human participants, was approved by the Simon Fraser University Research Ethics Board (reference numbers: 2013s0647, 2017s0495). This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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

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Table 6 Auxiliary Variables in Multiple Imputation Procedure


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Bowsfield, M.L., Cobb, R.J. Sexual Anxiety Mediates Dyadic Associations Between Body Satisfaction and Sexual Quality in Mixed-Sex Couples. Arch Sex Behav 50, 2603–2619 (2021).

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  • Body satisfaction
  • Body image
  • Sexual quality
  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Sexual dissatisfaction
  • Sexual anxiety