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Title:Mechanisms of turbulence, sexual intimacy challenges, and sexual communication in depressed couples
Author(s):Delaney, Amelia Lynn
Director of Research:Knobloch, Leanne K.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Knobloch, Leanne K.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Caughlin, John P.; Quick, Brian L.; Ogolsky, Brian G.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
relational turbulence
romantic relationships
sexual communication
Abstract:Symptoms of depression can permeate people’s relationships, making depression an inherently interpersonal illness (Hames, Hagan, & Joiner, 2013; Rehman, Gollan, & Mortimer, 2008). Depressed couples are especially prone to unique and pervasive challenges to their sexual relationship (Baldwin, 2001; Cleveland Clinic, 2014; Delaney, 2016). Delaney (2016) documented depression-related sexual intimacy challenges as multi-layered and including lost libido, cognitive barriers, and interactive dilemmas, but a quantitative documentation of these challenges remains to be added to the literature. Sexual communication is linked to relationship and sexual satisfaction (Byers, 2005; Theiss & Solomon, 2007), but questions persist about best practices for defining and measuring sexual communication, and about the role communication about sex might play for depressed couples navigating sexual intimacy challenges. In this study, I integrated the premise of the marital discord model of depression (Beach, Sandeen, & O’Leary, 1990) with the logic of the relational turbulence model (Solomon & Knobloch, 2004) to hypothesize a model that positioned depressive symptoms as a predictor of mechanisms of turbulence (H1), mechanisms of turbulence as predictors of sexual intimacy challenges (H2), and sexual intimacy challenges as predictors of sexual satisfaction (H3). I also hypothesized that sexual intimacy challenges would negatively predict sexual communication (H4), which would positively predict sexual satisfaction (H5). A final hypothesis suggested that sexual communication would mediate the association between sexual intimacy challenges and sexual satisfaction (H6). I collected dyadic data from romantic couples in which one or both partners had been professionally diagnosed with a form of depression (N = 116) and used structural equation modeling to evaluate actor and partner effects. The final models offered mixed support for the hypothesized associations, as some paths were not statistically significant and path additions were necessary to achieve model fit. The modified models revealed that depressive symptoms and interference from a partner predicted sexual intimacy challenges in depressed couples. The findings also uncovered relational uncertainty and interference from a partner as negatively associated with sexual communication. Finally, the data suggested that sexual communication exhibits an indirect effect connecting sexual intimacy challenges to sexual satisfaction. The findings contribute to theorizing about depression in romantic relationships, about the relational turbulence model, and about sexual communication. Pragmatically, the results point to minimizing mechanisms of turbulence and improving sexual communication as important areas for intervention with depressed couples.
Issue Date:2016-09-06
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Amelia Delaney
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-03-01
Date Deposited:2016-12

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