Sexual Satisfaction De-attached? The Mediating Role of Fears of Intimacy in the Relationship between Insecure Adult Attachment and Sexual Satisfaction
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Research on insecure adult attachment (i.e., attachment anxiety and avoidance) indicates that insecurely attached individuals experience less sexual satisfaction. Given the relative rigidity of attachment, the current study set out to add to existing literature on more therapeutically applicable attachment-related constructs contributing to sexual dissatisfaction. We aimed to determine whether five distinct fears of intimacy partially mediate the relationship between insecure adult attachment and sexual satisfaction, through three hypotheses: (1) Attachment anxiety and avoidance predict fears of intimacy; (2) Fears of intimacy predict diminished sexual satisfaction; (3) Fears of intimacy partially mediate the relationship between the dimensions of insecure adult attachment and sexual satisfaction. Participants (N = 701) completed an online questionnaire battery containing measures of insecure adult attachment, fears of intimacy and sexual satisfaction. The results of two single multiple mediation models partially supported the hypotheses. More precisely, the results indicate that attachment anxiety and avoidance may contribute to the development of fear of merger, fear of attack, fear of exposure, fear of abandonment and fear of one’s own destructive impulses. In turn, fearing merger, attack and exposure results in the experience of less sexual satisfaction. However, only fear of merger and fear of exposure were found to mediate the negative relationships between attachment anxiety and avoidance and sexual satisfaction. Fear of abandonment was unexpectedly found to lead to increased sexual satisfaction, suppressing the negative influence of attachment anxiety on sexual satisfaction. The remaining fears of intimacy appeared to not have a mediating effect. These findings are discussed, in addition to important limitations, practical implications and directions for future research.