Does Marriage Really Improve Sexual Satisfaction? Evidence from the Pairfam Dataset

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In light of the growing unmarried demographic, this study analyzed the extent and determinants of sexual satisfaction among seven relationship-status groups: married, never married, and those who are divorced/separated, where the latter two groups are further divided into single, living apart together (LAT), and cohabiting. In addition, the study measured the levels of sexual self-esteem, sexual communication, and sex frequency for the different relationship-status groups as predictors of sexual satisfaction. Finally, this study also analyzed sexual satisfaction while accounting for overall life satisfaction. Using the ninth wave of the Pairfam data set and analyzing the responses of 3,207 respondents in total, this study suggests that marriage is not a determinant for sexual satisfaction. In fact, it can even be a negative correlate when married respondents are compared to certain unmarried groups. The only exception is that of unmarried individuals who currently have no partner. Even this situation is shown to be dependent only on less frequent intercourse, not on a lack of sexual self-esteem and sexual communication. These conclusions challenge previous research as well as the explanations of earlier scholars. Several directions for future research are discussed in light of these findings.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)470-481
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 3 May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology


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