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Journal of Psychology and Christianity Copyright 2010 Christian Association for Psychological Studies 2010, Vol. 29, No. 1, 57-71 ISSN 0733-4273 The Impact of Differentiation of Self and Spirituality on Sexual Satisfaction Jaime D. Goff Abilene Christian University This study examined the relationships between differentiation of self, spirituality, and sexual satisfaction. A sample of 164 adults from both clinical and nonclinical populations completed the Differentiation of Self Inventory (DSI; Skowron & Friedlander, 1998), the Miller Measure of Spirituality (MMS; Miller, 2004), and the Pinney Sexual Satisfaction Inventory (PSSI; Pinney, Gerrard, & Denney, 1987). Correlational analyses revealed a significant positive relationship between differentiation and sexual satisfaction but not between spirituality and sexual satisfaction. Regression analyses and path analysis were conducted, the results of both indicating that differentiation alone is a significant predictor of sexual satisfaction. Adding spirituality to the predictive model did little to increase its strength in explaining the variance on PSSI scores. Addi- tional analyses revealed that spirituality was more significant for women than men. Clinical implications and suggestions for future research are discussed. According to traditional sex therapy theories professionals are now being encouraged to con- and models, sexual dysfunction and dissatisfac- sider their clients’ spiritual values and beliefs in tion occur primarily as a result of anxiety and, the treatment of their mental, emotional, rela- more specifically, performance anxiety (Kaplan, tional, and behavioral problems. Research has 1974, 1979; Masters & Johnson, 1966, 1970). The been proliferating on the impact of spirituality purpose of the interventions used in these on sexuality and sexual satisfaction, showing that approaches, such as sensate focus and bypass- the two are linked in important ways to one ing, is to avoid feelings of anxiety in sexual another (Butler, 2003; Ferrer, 2006; Helminiak, encounters. Schnarch’s (1991) quantum model 1998; Horn, Piedmont, Fialkowski, Wicks, & of sexual arousal and response offers an alterna- Hunt, 2005; MacKnee, 1997, 2002; McClintock, tive to traditional approaches by theorizing that 2001; Murray, Ciarrocchi, & Murray-Swank, 2007; sexual response, rather than a stage-oriented Murray-Swank, Pargament, & Mahoney, 2005; physiological process, consists of each individu- Wade, 2000). al’s ability to respond to and process both phys- Schnarch (1991) has offered a theoretically rich ical stimuli and psychological processes. Like description of the ways in which differentiation Kaplan and Masters and Johnson, Schnarch of self and spirituality shape sexual and marital emphasizes the role anxiety plays in sexuality. intimacy. No research has been conducted, how- Rather than focusing on the elimination of anxi- ever, to examine directly the relationships ety, however, Schnarch posits that in order to between differentiation of self, spirituality, and reach their sexual potential, which may or may sexual satisfaction. As a result, the purpose of not be accompanied by orgasm, individuals this exploratory study was to determine if differ- must learn to modulate their anxiety by increas- entiation of self and spirituality are predictive of ing their differentiation of self in relation to their sexual satisfaction among community and clini- partners (1991, 1997). Another aspect of cal samples. Schnarch’s (1997) quantum model is the propo- sition that when individuals reach their sexual Review of the Literature potential, their sexuality and spirituality will be mutually enhanced. In order to frame this study and to assist in Clinical interest in spirituality has been grow- hypothesizing outcomes, a review of the litera- ing in recent years, and whereas before it was a ture was conducted in three areas: the impact of topic to be avoided in therapy, mental health differentiation of self on relationships, correlates of sexual satisfaction, and previous research on The author would like to thank Dr. Waymon Hinson spirituality and sexuality. and Dr. Jackie Halstead for their helpful comments and suggestions and Dr. Carley Dodd for statistical Differentiation of Self consultation. Correspondance concerning this article D
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