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James Griffin, Charles LoPresto, Ph.D.

Sexual Compulsivity among Sexual Minorities:  Relations to Attachment and Gender Role Conflict

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The current study aimed to examine psychosocial factors related to sexual compulsivity among sexual minorities. Specifically, adult attachment and gender role conflict, often points of major contention among sexual minorities, have been implicated as influential to the development of sexually compulsive compensatory behaviors. A review of recent literature reveals high rates of physical and mental illness disproportionately affecting sexual minorities. Furthermore, the high degree of correspondence between sexual risk behavior and sexual compulsivity has been well documented. This underscores the urgency and importance of understanding sexual compulsivity and its underpinnings. The objectives of the study were t 1) assess differences in degree of sexual compulsivity and gender role conflict by sex, 2) establish dyadic relations between each of the constructs, and 3) test a mediational model wherein gender role conflict was posited to mediate the relation between attachment insecurity and sexual compulsivity. The study recruited participants via electronic, internet-based data collection methods. The study was broadly marketed toward sexual minorities, regardless of sexual identity, on several social psychological research recruitment websites, accessible to anyone with internet access. This cross-sectional, correlational study utilized a series of questionnaires consisting of a basic demographics questionnaire, the Sexual Compulsivity Scale, the Gender Role Conflict Scale, and two measures of attachment style: the Relationship Questionnaire and the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised scale. A national sample of 94 sexual minorities, of which 22 were men and 72 were women, between the ages of 18 and 62 was used in the final analyses.

Results confirmed higher degrees of sexual compulsivity endorsed by men compared to women. No significant differences between men and women were found on the measure of gender role conflict, counter to the study’s hypothesis. Among the aggregate sample, strong relations between dimensional measures of attachment insecurity and gender role conflict were found. Additionally, those who scored at the 80th percentile or higher on the Sexual Compulsivity Scale, categorized as high on sexual compulsivity, experienced significantly higher degrees of attachment insecurity and gender role conflict in the form of restrictive affectionate behavior between others of the same sex compared to non-sexually compulsive individuals. A test of the proposed mediational model was unsuccessful. A critical discussion of the study’s results focused on implications of findings from both a public health and mental health standpoint. The need for culturally-tailored community interventions addressing issues of attachment, gender role conflict, and sexual compulsivity was highlighted from both perspectives. Additionally, limitations of the current study, including limited power and poorly met assumptions, were detailed. Finally, suggestions for future research were offered, including calls for replication of results, use of stronger methodological strategies, added control variables, and comparative studies between clinical and non-clinical samples.

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