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