Gender Differences in Emotional and Sexual Intimacy: An Examination Using Item Response Theory
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The presence and quality of emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy are fundamental to both men’s and women’s relationship functioning. However, previous studies suggest that gender differences exist in men’s and women’s experiences sexual and emotional intimacy. Although these differences cannot be presumed to apply to all men and women, acknowledging and understanding their existence can prove useful to appreciating the role and impact of emotional and sexual intimacy in couples. The present study used differential item functioning (DIF), an IRT-based statistical framework, to explore gender differences in dissatisfaction with sexual intimacy and emotional intimacy (1) across the continuum of relationship distress, and (2) within each domain, respectively. Data were provided by husbands and wives (N = 2,038) from a representative sample of community couples who completed the Marital Satisfaction Inventory – Revised (MSI-R). IRT-based DIF analyses revealed significant gender differences, suggesting that men and women differ in their experience and reports of dissatisfaction with sexual intimacy and emotional intimacy across the continuum of relationship distress, as well within the respective domains of sexual and emotional intimacy. Although nuanced, understanding these differences provides further insight into men’s and women’s experience of relationship distress across the entire spectrum of relationship distress, and can be used in improving the assessment, prevention, and treatment of sources of couple distress.
Stanton, Kimberley (2015). Gender Differences in Emotional and Sexual Intimacy: An Examination Using Item Response Theory. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from