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Contemporary Family Therapy

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Post-print: the version of the article having undergone peer review but prior to being published


Relational Aggression, Sexual Dissatisfaction, Mediation Model, Attachment Insecurity, Actor-Partner Interdependence


The majority of studies on couple aggressive behaviors have focused on more overt forms (e.g., intimate partner violence), while findings on covert patterns of aggression are lacking. This study aims to explore the direct and indirect effects of two types of relational aggression (i.e., love withdrawal and social sabotage) on sexual dissatisfaction, with attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance as the mediators. Participants were 324 married couples from a large northwestern city in the United States. Direct actor effects from love withdrawal were found for both partners, while direct actor effects from social sabotage were only found for husbands. Direct partner effects from love withdrawal and social sabotage were both found for wives only. Further mediation analyses indicated that both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance mediated the relationship between relational aggression and sexual dissatisfaction. Findings from this study demonstrate the direct and indirect associations between two types of relational aggression and sexual dissatisfaction, through the mediating mechanisms of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance. For therapists who work with couples, our study pointed out the importance of assessing and treating relational aggression in couples, especially when couples report sexual dissatisfaction.

Original Publication Citation

Xu, M., Johnson, L.N. & Coyne, S.M. The Influence of Relational Aggression and Attachment Insecurity on Sexual Dissatisfaction: Using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Mediation Model. Contemp Fam Ther 46, 37–51 (2024).