Master of Science
Sexual behaviours are an integral part of most intimate relationships and can serve as mechanisms for building intimacy, enhancing emotional connection, and can serve as non-verbal communication to express care, love, and compassion for significant others. Sexually compatible behaviours are also associated with sexual satisfaction – something especially important given the downstream consequences of sexual satisfaction on relationship satisfaction, relationship stability, and general well-being. However, to date, no inclusive, psychometrically validated measure of partnered sexual interests and behaviours exists. Given the central role of sexual interests and behaviours in sexual satisfaction and in turn relationship quality, we sought to develop and validate a diverse and inclusive measure of partnered sexual interests and behaviours. We found the network psychometrics approach using Exploratory Graph Analysis and Unique Variable Analysis to be more inclusive and better suited to modelling the complexity of concrete item-level partnered sexual interests and behaviours in comparison to traditional factor analytic approaches.
Summary for Lay Audience
Sexual activities play a critical role in most intimate relationships, serving to deepen emotional bonds and can be used as non-verbal ways of expressing love and care. Being sexually compatible tends to lead to higher satisfaction within a relationship, with positive downstream impact on relationship quality, stability, and overall well-being. However, to date, we have no universal, validated method of measuring people's wide range of sexual interests and behaviours within a relationship.
Many current efforts to gauge sexual interests and behaviors are skewed towards heteronormative perspectives, which suggest heterosexuality as the default state. This bias can lead to a lack of visibility and marginalization of diverse sexual experiences and preferences, particularly in non-heteronormative groups. Traditional statistical methods used to analyze sexual preferences might also contribute to this bias, as they tend to downplay or dismiss less common sexual preferences, such as those diverging from typical heterosexual scripts.
We aimed to validate a measure that comprehensively and inclusively represents various sexual interests and behaviours for use in future research on sexual compatibility. We focused on two methods to develop and validate these measures: traditional factor analysis and network psychometrics. We believe that the network psychometrics approach can offer a more diverse and inclusive measurement of sexual behaviours, due to its ability to more accurately capture the complexity of sexual interests and behaviours. Compared to traditional methods like factor analysis, network psychometrics is less likely to yield heteronormative results, making it a promising tool for inclusive research practices.
Khera, Devinder S., "Exploring the Dimensions and Dynamics of Partnered Sexual Behaviours: Scale Development and Validation Using Factor and Network Analysis" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9442.
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