Category: Sexual Functioning
Providing care to an older family member is an increasingly common experience for many women and is associated with multiple mental and physical health concerns (Crespo, Lopez, & Zarit, 2005). However, researchers have not yet explored how caregiving for an older adult might influence women caregivers’ satisfaction with their sexual relationships. Understanding the factors that lead to sexual satisfaction in this population is important, considering that sexuality is a critical component of emotional and physical health, and that sexual issues tend to be associated with many of the mental health concerns found in caregivers, such as depression and anxiety (Bridges, Lease, & Ellison, 2004). Because stress is associated with decreased sexual satisfaction, caregivers may be especially prone to experiencing declined satisfaction due to the immense stress they experience from caregiving (Fisher, 2010; Schulz & Monin, 2012). Frequency of sexual intercourse is one of the strongest predictors of sexual satisfaction in women aged 45 and older, and therefore, current physical and sexual behaviors may predict satisfaction in female caregivers (Fisher, 2010). The purpose of this cross sectional study is to investigate how the current frequency of physical and sexual behaviors may predict sexual satisfaction in women caregivers, after controlling for their perceived stress, retrospective reports of the frequency of physical and sexual behaviors before onset of caregiving, and any current communication problems in the relationship. Participants (N=69) were female adults aged 18 years or older taking part in a larger online survey of family caregivers. Participants were eligible if they assisted an older adult aged 65 or older. For the purpose of this study, only women caregivers currently in a heterosexual relationship with someone other than the care recipient were examined. We hypothesized that both physical closeness behaviors, such as hand holding and cuddling, and sexual behaviors, such as intimate touch and intercourse, would both contribute to satisfaction. Hierarchical linear regression was used to evaluate this hypothesis, resulting in a significant model including current physical and sexual behaviors, F(6,62) = 15.36, p < .001, R2= .598, Adjusted R2 = .559. The strongest predictor of satisfaction was current physical closeness behaviors (β = .387, p =.021), followed by communication problems (β = -.375, p = .001) and perceived stress (β = -.194, p = .040). Findings suggest that physical behaviors, such as hand holding, hugging, cuddling, and kissing are the strongest predictors of sexual satisfaction in caregivers after controlling for reports of previous behaviors, perceived stress, and communication problems.
University of Missouri - St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri