Ellen Lee

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Sagarin, Brad J., 1966-||Barber, Larissa K.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Social psychology


In understanding the frequency of sexual activity within a relationship and its impact on subsequent health and relationship outcomes, one understudied aspect is the link between sexual desire and activity. As sexual desire is often theorized to be a precursor to sexual activity, the first purpose of the current study was to investigate whether, and the extent to which, sexual desire predicted sexual activity. A bidirectional effect of sexual activity predicting subsequent desire was also explored. This study utilized a longitudinal design to investigate the temporal sequence between desire and sex. A total of 156 participants recruited from undergraduate college courses responded to a brief survey four times a day for seven days. The results indicated that increases in sexual desire were strongly associated with increases in the odds of having sex, strongly supporting linear models of sexual response. The bidirectional effect of sexual activity predicting subsequent desire was not evidenced, providing little support for circular models of sexual response. The second purpose of the study was to investigate different within-person variables and between-person relationship contextual factors that would affect the association between sexual desire and sexual activity. Increased prior positive mood and increased prior mood arousal significantly predicted sexual activity. None of the hypothesized relationship contextual variables (e.g., relationship satisfaction, attachment, sexual motivation, and sexual communication) moderated the link between sexual desire and sexual activity.


Advisors: Brad J. Sagarin; Larissa Barber.||Committee members: John Skowronski; Thomas Smith.||Includes illustrations.||Includes bibliographical references.


127 pages




Northern Illinois University

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