The purpose of this study was to examine how sexual satisfaction in older marriages (marriages with at least one spouse between the ages of 55 and 75) was affected by family-of-origin distress (recent measure of recollection of childhood experiences) and marital distress (measure of current marital relationship) for husbands and wives. The hypotheses of this study were that both family-of-origin distress and marital distress would have negative effects on sexual satisfaction for older couples, with marital distress having a direct, negative effect on sexual satisfaction and with family-of-origin distress having an indirect, negative effect on sexual satisfaction through its influence on marital distress. The sample consisted of 614 older couples (approximate average age of 65 for husbands and 62 for wives) who participated in the Project Couple Retire research project which provided the data for this study. Each participant completed the Project Couple Retire questionnaire which included the Marital Satisfaction Inventory-Revised (MSI-R) (1997), the Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships (PAIR) (1981), and other instruments measuring various factors relating to older marriages. A conceptual model was created consisting of three latent variables: sexual satisfaction, family-of-origin distress, and marital distress. The latent dependent variable, sexual satisfaction, was measured by the MSI-R sexual dissatisfaction (SEX) scale and the sexual intimacy scale of the PAIR inventory. One of the latent independent variables, family-of-origin distress, was originally measured by both the MSI-R family history of distress (FAM) scale and an additional instrument from the Project Couple Retire questionnaire measuring history of abuse. However, the history of abuse measure was eventually dropped from the study due to poor measurement fit. The other latent independent variable, marital distress, was measured by the affective communication (AFC) and time together (TTO) scales of the MSI-R. The data in this study was dyadic, with each variable including data from both husbands and wives. Therefore, both actor and partner effects were examined. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to analyze the conceptual model. Findings indicated that both family-of-origin distress and marital distress negatively affected sexual satisfaction in older marriages for both husbands and wives when considering both indirect and direct effects.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





family of origin, family-of-origin distress, marriage, marital distress, sexual satisfaction, older couples, older marriages, older adults, structural equation modeling, dyadic data