Do Romantic Partners' Responses to Entry Dyspareunia Affect Women's Experience of Pain? The Roles of Catastrophizing and Self-Efficacy

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Entry dyspareunia is a sexual health concern which affects about 21% of women in the general population. Characterized by pain provoked during vaginal penetration, introital dyspareunia has been shown by controlled studies to have a negative impact on the psychological well-being, sexual function, sexual satisfaction, and quality of life of afflicted women. Many cognitive and affective variables may influence the experience of pain and associated psychosexual problems. However, the role of the partner's cognitive responses has been studied very little.


The aim of the present study was to examine the associations between partners' catastrophizing and their perceptions of women's self-efficacy at managing pain on one side and women's pain intensity, sexual function, and sexual satisfaction on the other.


One hundred seventy-nine heterosexual couples (mean age for women = 31, SD = 10.0; mean age for men = 33, SD = 10.6) in which the woman suffered from entry dyspareunia participated in the study. Both partners completed quantitative measures. Women completed the Pain Catastrophizing Scale and the Painful Intercourse Self-Efficacy Scale. Men completed the significant-other versions of these measures.

Main Outcome Measures.

Dependent measures were women's responses to (i) the Pain Numeric Visual Analog Scale; (ii) the Female Sexual Function Index; and (iii) the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction scale.


Controlled for women's pain catastrophizing and self-efficacy, results indicate that higher levels of partner-perceived self-efficacy and lower levels of partner catastrophizing are associated with decreased pain intensity in women with entry dyspareunia, although only partner catastrophizing contributed unique variance. Partner-perceived self-efficacy and catastrophizing were not significantly associated with sexual function or satisfaction in women.


The findings suggest that partners' cognitive responses may influence the experience of entry dyspareunia for women, pointing toward the importance of considering the partner when treating this sexual health problem. Lemieux AJ, Bergeron S, Steben M, and Lambert B. Do romantic partners' responses to entry dyspareunia affect women's experience of pain? The roles of catastrophizing and self-efficacy. J Sex Med 2013;10:2274–2284.

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