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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. This study examined the prevalence and correlates of sexting i. Sending sexy talk messages was positively related to relationship satisfaction only among those with high levels of avoidance, and sending sexually explicit pictures was related to satisfaction for men, and for women with high levels of attachment anxiety.
Additionally, sending sexually explicit pictures was related to greater ambivalence among both men and women. These findings support and extend research with young adults. I n , Brenda Wiederhold 1 put forth a call in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking for more research on sexting among adults, as most sexting studies had focused on teens and young adults.
Fast forward 4 years, and little has changed with regard to the populations targeted for sexting research. Researchers still focus on teens and young adults. In fact, in their recent literature review, Klettke et al. At present, only two known studies have focused on sexting among married individuals.
Thus, there is still a dearth of research on sexting among married couples, and although some studies have included married individuals, none has examined sexting behaviors within couples. This study begins to fill this gap by examining the prevalence and frequency of sexting within married couples, as well as the attachment patterns that moderate the associations between sexting and satisfaction in adult married relationships.
Consequently, researchers have begun to focus their attention on the ways in which mobile phones affect dyadic relationships, including the ways individuals use mobile technology to transmit sexual messages i. In this area, a growing body of research has emerged, focused on the definitions, prevalence, and risk factors associated with sexting. They send sexually explicit texts more often than pictures. Some sexting research has focused on relationship quality, examining, for example, the attachment patterns of those who send sexually explicit messages to their partners.
Again, research in this area has been fairly consistent: Sending sexually explicit messages and propositioning sex via text message is more common among those who have insecure i. Thus, sexting has been linked to relationship insecurity rather than relationship well-being. A major difference between the Parker et al. Meanwhile, Parker et al. Consequently, double entendres or messages implying sex, when classified as sexting by the sender, were included, and they were not analyzed separately from nude photos or videos.
This measurement issue limits the conclusions one can draw from this study, as it is unclear whether sending sexually explicit text or picture messages i. Nonetheless, Parker et al. This study sought to fill a gap in the sexting and relationship quality research by exploring the associations between relationship well-being satisfaction and ambivalence , attachment characteristics, and sexting frequency among married couples.
Based on the extant literature, it was predicted that:. H1: The prevalence of sending sexually explicit texts and photos would be lower among older, married couples than it would be among young adults. Mobile phone usage overall is lower among older populations of adults compared with young adults. Moreover, although sexting is most common among young adults in committed relationships, 9 , 10 Parker et al. Finally, sexting is associated with sensation seeking 10 and impulsivity.
Additionally, with consideration for the ly found links between attachment and sexting, 11 , 16 and the nonificant correlations between sexting and relationship satisfaction in the Parker et al. H2: Attachment avoidance would be related to sexting frequency both words and pictures , and attachment anxiety would be related to sending words-only sexts i. H3: Sexting either with words or pictures among married couples would not emerge as a predictor of relationship satisfaction or ambivalence. However, attachment characteristics would moderate the relationship between sexting frequency and relationship satisfaction and ambivalence.
Finally, as research has shown that relationships between sexting and attachment characteristics differ by gender, 11 gender was explored as a moderator. Participants were part of the Daily Family Life Project DFLP , an ongoing longitudinal study of family life, who were recruited through three primary sources: a database of families in Pennsylvania willing to be contacted by researchers, b announcements on parenting Web sites, and c announcements in the local community.
Data were utilized from individuals wives from heterosexual families, currently living together in the United States, with at least one child aged 5 years or younger. Participants lived in the following U. On average, wives were Participants completed an online, ethics board approved survey containing measures described below. The Quality of Marriage Index 21 includes five items assessing satisfaction e.
Participants were asked to indicate their ambivalence with their current partner across three items from Braiker and Kelley's 22 ambivalence subscale. Six statements measured attachment anxiety e. Depressive symptoms were measured with the CES-D, 25 which asked participants to rate how often they experienced 20 symptoms in the past week. Coparenting was measured using the Coparenting Relationship Scale, 26 which includes 35 items that measure how partners work together or against one another in their parenting e.
Coparenting quality was included as a control because the current sample included families with children, and researchers have shown that relationship satisfaction and coparenting quality are intricately linked; for example the quality of support parents provide to one another while parenting their child together predicts feelings about the couple's relationship as a whole. Sending sexually explicit photos was rare among married couples.
However, avoidance was unrelated to the frequency of sending sexy messages. However, again, there were no ificant relationships between sending sexy text messages and attachment anxiety for husbands or wives. Correlations for men are presented above the diagonal and for women below the diagonal. Correlations between men and women are bolded, italicized, and on the diagonal.
Descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations for the main study variables and controls are displayed in Table 1. As shown, sending sexy messages was not ificantly correlated with relationship satisfaction or ambivalence for wives or husbands. These models were similar to multiple regression models for cross-sectional data. However, women's and men's data could not be treated as completely independent in the current sample, which violates the assumptions of simple regression.
Therefore, multilevel modeling was used to for the nested nature of the data wives and husbands within families. Within each of these models, relationship satisfaction or relationship ambivalence were predicted, with attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety as moderators by creating interaction terms between the sexting predictors and the attachment variables. All nonificant interactions were trimmed from the final models. Sending Photos and Attachment Avoidance and Anxiety.
For interactions, the main effect is for women, and the interaction is the value to add to the main effect in order to get the effect for men. Nonificant interactions were trimmed and are marked with a —. Except for the above-mentioned controls, all other variables were grand mean centered. Figure 1 shows that sending sexy messages related positively to relationship satisfaction only for those high in avoidance. In terms of relationship ambivalence Model 2 , sending sexy messages was not a ificant predictor, and neither attachment anxiety nor avoidance emerged as moderators.
Predicted values of relationship satisfaction at high and low 1 standard deviation SD above and 1 SD below the mean values of sending sexy messages, moderated by attachment avoidance. High avoidance is 1 SD above the mean black line , and low anxiety is 1 SD below the mean gray dashed line.
Predicted values of relationship satisfaction at high and low 1 SD above and 1 SD below the mean values of sending photos, moderated by attachment anxiety. High anxiety is 1 SD above the mean black line , and low anxiety is 1 SD below the mean gray dashed line. Some relationship researchers have recently turned their attention to the prevalence and correlates of sexting among teens and young adults. Yet, little is known about the prevalence of sexting within older married or cohabiting couples. Additionally, although one study 3 addressed the topic of sexting and relationship satisfaction among those in long-term relationships, it remained unclear whether sexting among married couples is associated with relationship health or relationship insecurity and dissatisfaction.
Older adults in established committed relationships do engage in sexting. However, in support of H1, the prevalence of sexting both sexy talk and sending sexually explicit pictures is lower than has been reported among young adults. First, it may be, as was hypothesized, that older individuals are less impulsive and less prone to risk taking than their younger counterparts and therefore more carefully evaluate the risks of their sexual images being catapulted into cyberspace or found on their phone by others.
Second, as the average age of the participants in this study was about 10 years older than the average age of the young adults in undergraduate sexting research, it is probable that some of these older adults established their sexual relationships with their partners without the use of technology and therefore bypassed the sexting trend. Perhaps, had cell phones been as prevalent and advanced 20 years ago as they are now, these married couples would have established sexual intimacy via nude cell phone photos, a practice they might still employ today.
Finally, according to the Kinsey Institute, 29 married individuals and older adults have sex less frequently than singles and younger adults. Thus, less sexting may just be reflective of overall less sexual activity within this population. Each of these possibilities merits further investigation.
However, this relationship was ificant for wives only. Thus, H2 was partially supported. Small differences between the current and those found in Drouin and Landgraff 11 could be attributed to several factors, including generational differences between young and older adults and their uses of technology in relationships, the stability of relationships examined in these different studies non-marrieds vs.
Future work should explore this topic over time and across generations to examine whether historical context or age influences these relationships. In terms of relationship satisfaction, H3 was partially supported. For the most part, sexting did not contribute to greater relationship satisfaction, except for those with insecure attachments and, in some cases, husbands.
However, sending nude photos was related to greater satisfaction only among wives with higher levels of attachment anxiety and to worse satisfaction among wives with low anxiety. Meanwhile, sending sexy messages i. This study has some limitations. First, it included exclusively U. Second, only couples with at least one young child were included. The prevalence and correlates of sexting among couples without may be different from what was found here. Finally, the measures of sexting were limited to single items, although two of the items were combined for the sexy talk measure.
More detailed questions about sexting within this population will help to extend this work and make comparisons with findings from young adult samples. In sum, replication and expansion of this research is recommended in order to create a more complete picture of sexting among committed couples worldwide. Despite these limitations, this work gives insight into the sexting practices of adult married couples. Married couples do not sext very often. Only approximately one third had ever sent sexy messages to their partners, and only about 1 in 10 had ever sent nude or semi-nude pictures.
More importantly, sending these messages was not a predictor of relationship satisfaction, except among those with insecure attachment patterns and, in the case of sexually explicit pictures, among men. These are consistent with research that links sexting behavior with insecure attachment patterns, 11 , 16 but they call into question suggestions that sexting may be used as an intervention strategy to increase intimacy among couples.
We would like to thank the families who participated in this research, as well as the research assistants who made all of this recruitment and data collection possible. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw.Wife sexting pics
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