Male Partners of Women with Provoked Vestibulodynia: Attributions for Pain and Their Implications for Dyadic Adjustment, Sexual Satisfaction, and Psychological Distress

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Abstract

Introduction

Provoked vestibulodynia is a female genital pain condition that results in sexual dysfunction and impacts negatively on the couple. Although patients' causal attributions have been linked to worse psychosexual outcomes, no study has documented the male partners' perspective of this distressing problem and its potential influence on their psychosexual adaptation.

Aim

To identify whether male partners' attributions for vestibulodynia are possible predictors of their dyadic adjustment, sexual functioning, sexual satisfaction, and psychological distress, as well as of women's pain and sexual functioning.

Methods

Thirty-eight women with vestibulodynia first completed measures of pain intensity and sexual functioning. Male partners responded to mailed questionnaires assessing their own attributions for genital pain as well as their psychological distress, relationship adjustment, sexual functioning, and sexual satisfaction.

Main Outcome Measures

Women completed the McGill-Melzack Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) and the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI). Attributions of male partners were measured using an adapted version of the Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ)—Partner Version. Men also filled out the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS), the Sexual History Form (SHF), and the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction (GMSEX).

Results

All four negative attribution dimensions and higher levels of women's pain intensity successfully predicted increased psychological distress in male partners. Higher levels of both internal and global attributions were associated with men's poorer dyadic adjustment, whereas global and stable attributions were related to their lower sexual satisfaction. Attributions failed to significantly predict sexual functioning in male partners and women's pain and sexual functioning.

Conclusions

Evaluation and treatment of sexual pain problems should involve both partners and should explore the role of negative attributions.

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