Sexual Health

Sophie Bergeron  Ph.D


Did you know that intimacy difficulties may be a factor explaining the associations between childhood maltreatment and higher sexual and couple dissatisfaction?

Childhood maltreatment, which includes all form of abuse and neglect such as physical, psychological, and sexual, affects an important proportion of the population, with around 40% of adults who report at least one type of maltreatment in childhood. In adulthood, childhood maltreatment may affect the functioning of couple relationships in several ways and many studies showed that childhood maltreatment is associated with lower couple and sexual satisfaction.

A recent study conducted in our laboratory looked at what may explain the link between childhood maltreatment and the development of couple and sexual dissatisfaction. In this study, we wanted to know if difficulties in some components of intimacy could explain the association between childhood maltreatment and couple and sexual satisfaction.

To answer this question, we recruited 365 couples in the community for a longitudinal study in which childhood maltreatment and intimacy were measured at time 1 and couple and sexual satisfaction 6 months later.

What did we find?

Our results confirm findings of past studies, whereby childhood maltreatment is not associated with the victim’s capacity to disclose to a romantic partner in terms of quantity of disclosures.

What is interesting is that victims perceived their partner to be less disclosing and less empathically responsive. We also found that it is this effect on the perception of the partner’s empathic response that explains the couple and sexual dissatisfaction 6 months later.

Our results suggest using couple interventions specifically targeting intimacy, but especially the partner’s empathic responses, to improve the romantic relationships of childhood maltreatment survivors.

For more details, we invite you to read the full paper:

Vaillancourt-Morel, M.-P., Rellini, A. H., Godbout, N., Sabourin, S., & Bergeron, S. (2018). Intimacy mediates the relation between maltreatment in childhood and sexual and relationship satisfaction in Adulthood: A dyadic longitudinal analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10508-018-1309-1

Do you know the risks of disclosing a child sexual abuse to a romantic partner?

What happens to a couple after the disclosure of a sexual abuse to a partner?

The denunciation movements of recent years have raised questions among many couples. What happens to couples where one partner reveals a history of sexual abuse? Researchers from the SCOUP team have recently looked into this issue, more specifically when the disclosure concerns a sexual abuse experienced during childhood. We aimed to document the responses received from the partner during the unveiling of a sexual abuse during childhood, as perceived by the survivor, as well as to examine the associations between these responses and the sexual and relationship satisfaction of both partners. To do this, we sent online questionnaires to 70 couples in the general population, in which one of them had experienced this trauma, and had revealed it to their spouse.

What did we find?

We found that most partners' responses were perceived by the survivors as being supportive, that is, they showed emotional support (94.3%) or tangible help (67.1%). A minority of survivors had perceived harmful responses, such as stigmatization (41.4%) and blame (14.3%). However, we noted that for half of the survivors, the supportive responses were accompanied by blame responses and/or stigmatization.

In addition, analyzes revealed that emotional support responses, as perceived by the survivor, were associated with greater sexual satisfaction for both partners, whereas stigmatizing responses were associated with lower relationship satisfaction for both partners.

These results suggest that survivors can receive both supportive and harmful responses from their partners. Emotional support seems to have a positive impact on the sexual satisfaction of both partners, while stigma has a negative impact on their relationship satisfaction. Hence, supportive responses are beneficial not only for the survivors having disclosed a sexual abuse experience, but also for their partners.

For more details, we invite you to read the full paper:

de Montigny Gauthier, L., Vaillancourt-Morel, M.P., Rellini, A., Godbout, N., Charbonneau-Lefebvre, V., Desjardins, F., & Bergeron, S. (2018). The risks of telling: A dyadic perspective on romantic partners’ responses to child sexual abuse disclosures and their associations with sexual and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. doi: 10.1111/jmft.12345

Is it always problematic to use online pornography?

Even if the effects of using Internet pornography use are still debated, it is a common sexual activity for an increasing number of individuals. Does pornography use a problematic sexual activity for everybody? A recent study, conducted by researchers from the SCOUP team, examined if different profiles of pornography use emerge. The profiles were created using three dimensions of a problematic pornography use: (1) compulsivity toward pornography, (2) intensity of efforts to access pornography, and (3) associated emotional distress. Our researchers also examined the associations between these obtained profiles and the pornography viewing time as well as various indicators of sexual well-being. To answer the research questions, a convenience sample of 830 adults was recruited to complete online questionnaires.

What have we found?

Results suggest the three following profiles: (1) the recreational profile, presenting low scores on the three dimensions of problematic pornography use and including 75% of the sample, (2) the highly distressed noncompulsive profile, reporting high scores on the emotional distress, and including 13% of the sample, and (3) the compulsive profile, reporting high scores on compulsivity and efforts to access pornography and including 12% of the sample. Only individuals in the compulsive profile report using pornography significantly more often than the individuals in the two other profiles. Individuals in the recreational profile do not report negative effects on their sexual well-being whereas individuals in the highly distressed noncompulsive profile and those in the compulsive profile report negative effects on many indicators of their sexual well-being.
These profiles highlight that pornography use is not problematic for most users, but that it can become problematic for one quarter of individuals while being associated with negative effects on sexual well-being.

For more details, we invite you to read the full paper:

Vaillancourt-Morel, M.-P., Blais-Lecours, S., Labadie, C., Bergeron, S., Sabourin, S., & Godbout, N. (2017). Profiles of cyberpornography use and sexual well-being in adults. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 14, 78-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.10.016

Bannière de logos