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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. We estimate Actor—Partner Interdependence Models using the SEM approach to assess three well-being outcomes: general happiness, psychological distress, and self-reported mental health. Older adults with better relationship quality gave oral sex to their partner more often than those with worse relationship quality; this association was stronger for men than for women.
Given the high prevalence of sexual dysfunctions among older adults, oral sex may play an important but overlooked role in maintaining an active sexual life, a high-quality relationship, and psychological vibrancy in late life. Although recent studies tend to recognize the prevalence of oral sex Chambers, ; Herbenick et al.
Given the high prevalence of sexual dysfunctions among older adults Lindau et al. Findings speak to health policy and practice as well as to our understanding of sexuality in later life. Diagnoses of chronic conditions e.
Among all sexual activities, penile—vaginal intercourse is most often discussed, perhaps because it remains the most prevalent form of sexual practice among most ages Galinsky et al. Oral sex has received much less attention, particularly in the discussion of older sexuality. Yet, major cohort differences are found in the practice of oral sex Herbenick et al.
Still, empirical studies specifically focused on oral sex linked to general well-being are rare even less among older adultsand the evidence is less clear. Another study on the self-rated health of U. Neither did Laumann and colleagues find evidence for the association between oral sex and happiness Laumann et al.
Basson posits the importance of integrating emotional intimacy in the human sex-response cycle and emphasizes the role of sexual interaction with a partner in enhancing relationship closeness, which becomes a further sexual stimulus. This is especially true for women as they will initiate, or agree to participate in, sexual activity and seek arousing sexual stimuli to engage in sex with a partner, with the ultimate goal of enhancing relationship quality Basson, Two stages of the integrated dyadic model linking oral sex, relationship quality, and well-being.
This process may differ for men and women, although the direction of prediction is mixed. In this sense, women performing fellatio may reflect not only their own perceptions about the relationship, but also their unwillingness to turn down a sexual request from their partner Braun et al. Indeed, studies among college students suggest that women feel less reward or intimacy from oral sex than do men Chambers, ; Lefkowitz et al.
If so, a man giving oral sex does not necessarily reflect his perceptions of relationship quality, but instead may simply be a way for him to express his masculinity. Taken together, we hypothesize that:. Hypothesis 1: Those who report better relationship quality will be more likely to give oral sex to their partner than those who report worse relationship quality. This association may be different for men and women. For example, receiving oral sex, often a form of foreplay, may boost the chance of achieving orgasm and sexual enjoyment for the receiver, especially of women Armstrong et al.
Therefore, we hypothesize that:. This will be true for both men and women. Moreover, the link between relationship quality and well-being may be gendered. Women also do more care and emotion work for their partner than men Revenson et al. This is perhaps especially true when women feel happy in their relationship. Therefore, we expect that:. Hypothesis 3: A higher level of perceived relationship quality by one partner will be related to better well-being for both partners. NSHAP collected a probability sample of 3, community-dwelling adults aged 57—85 in the first wave — The sample de balanced age and gender subgroups but oversampled African Americans and Latinos.
This resulted in a dyad sample of heterosexual couples in Wave 2. We restricted our analytical sample to the couples 1, individuals who responded to the oral sex questions. The sensitivity analysis available upon request based on the Heckman selection model Heckman, revealed similar after adjusting for sample selection of nonmissing on oral sex. Respondents were asked whether they had engaged in any sexual activities in the past 12 months and, if so, how frequently they had received oral sex from their partner.
We note that although both 1 and 2 are not involved in oral sex, they are qualitatively different: one is sexually inactive while the other is sexually active. Our additional analysis available upon request of collapsing these two groups into one revealed no major difference in the key findings.
The variable that measures how often the female partner received oral sex corresponds to how often the male partner gave oral sex, and vice versa. We examine three measures of psychological well-being: general happiness, psychological distress, and self-reported mental health. These cover both positive and negative dimensions of well-being and are the most commonly studied well-being measures available in the data. Each question is coded so that a higher value represents greater depression.
The final CES-D scale sums the score of the 11 measures.
The response range from 1 poor to 5 excellent. We follow studies e. These scales are composed of eight items, which we recode to obtain consistent response across all items. First, respondents were asked how close they felt their relationship with their partner was Item 1. Responses include 1 not very close or somewhat close, 2 very close, and 3 extremely close. Respondents were also asked how happy they were in their relationship Item 2: 1 [ very unhappy ] to 7 [ very happy ] and how emotionally satisfied they felt with their relationship Item 3: 0 [ not at all ] to 4 [ extremely ].
Because Items 2 and 3 were highly skewed, we collapsed the. Additionally, respondents were asked the extent to which they preferred to spend their free time doing things with their partner Item 4. Responses include 1 mostly together, 2 some together and some apart, and 3 mostly apart.
We reverse-coded this item so that higher values indicate better relationship quality. Finally, respondents were asked: how often they could open up to the partner if they needed to talk about their worries Item 5how often they could rely on their partner for help if they had a problem Item 6how often their partner made too many demands on them Item 7and how often their partner criticized them Item 8.
Responses to each question Items 5—8 are 1 never, hardly ever, or rarely, 2 some of the time, and 3 often. from exploratory factor analyses suggest that these eight items form two different dimensions, which we refer to as relationship support—reflecting the positive dimension of the relationship, and relationship strain—reflecting the negative dimensions of the relationship. We create two-factor scores, one for relationship support and the other for relationship strain based on the iterated principle factor method and an oblique rotation.
Table 1 shows the factor loadings of each item used to generate the factor scores for relationship quality. Boldface s indicate factor loadings above the 0. We control for sociodemographic characteristics of both men and women. Age is measured as a continuous variable in years. Race—ethnicity includes non-Hispanic white referencenon-Hispanic black, Hispanic, and other. We derive family income from a question that asked respondents to compare their family income with that of other American families.
Responses include below average referenceaverage, and above average. A major advantage of using SEM in this study is its ability to integrate the complex relationships linking giving or receiving oral sex, relationship quality, and psychological well-being between partners illustrated in Figure 1 into a single model and to estimate all these relationships simultaneously.
We run separate APIMs for each well-being outcome. not shown demonstrated that for all models, CFI is greater than 0. We conduct t -tests to compare corresponding path coefficients between men and women. Men and women were not ificantly different from each other in terms of levels of receiving or giving oral sex. Women reported more psychological distress than did men 5. Women were on average younger Men had a higher proportion of college graduates A higher proportion of women reported pain during sex than did men from the APIM models are illustrated in Figure 2 for happiness, Figure 3 for psychological distress, and Figure 4 for self-rated mental health.
For each figure, the upper panel a shows the for relationship support and the lower panel b shows the for relationship strain. We see some clear patterns that are consistent across all APIM models. First, the male partner giving i.
The more often the male partner gave oral sex to his female partner, the more often the female partner gave oral sex to her male partner, and vice versa. Second, we also see ificant within-couple correlations in relationship quality and well-being outcomes in Figures 2 — 4. Specifically, if a male partner reported better relationship quality Figures 2 — 4greater happiness Figure 2lower levels of psychological distress Figure 3or better mental health Figure 4 than other men, his female partner also tended to have advantages in these outcomes compared with other women.Married couple want orgasm school
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