Exploring the role of sexual self-schemas in the sexual adjustment of spinal cord injured women

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Blaine Fowers - Committee Chair


Despite the physical limitations that accompany spinal cord injuries (SCI), individuals with SCIs are still able to perform sexual acts including intercourse. Moreover, sexual psychological well-being and body esteem appear to be more closely associated with overall psychological well-being in people who have physical disabilities than in able-bodied people (Taleporos & McCabe, 2002). Notwithstanding findings that reflect that sexuality is an important component of the recovery process to a more satisfying life, SCI patients still report a lower frequency of sexual activity, as well as less sexual satisfaction post-injury compared to pre-injury (McCabe, Taleporos, & Dip, 2003; Sipski, 1993). Some of the limitations regarding the study of women's sexuality spinal cord injury are discussed. This study used Cyranowski and Andersen's (1994) model of sexual self-schemes, positive vs. negative sexual self-schemes, to explore the role that these may play in the recovery of sexual functioning in spinal cord injured women.Bivariate correlations yielded significant positive relationships between positive sexual self-schemes and the following outcome variables: body and sex esteem, sexual esteem, sexual arousability, and ability to have an orgasm. A negative correlation was also noted between positive sexual self-schemes and sexual depression. On the other hand, negative sexual self-schemes were positively related to sexual anxiety while negatively related to sexual esteem. In addition, a model was hypothesized, with results showing good fit for this population, including a notable path from sexual self-schema to sexual arousability, and to sexual satisfaction. Post hoc analyses also yielded some interesting findings, as two mediation relationships were noted. Sexual esteem and sexual arousability each individually mediated the relationship between sexual self-schemas and sexual depression.The results can be used to devise appropriate interventions to increase women's awareness about sexual self-schemas. With this increased awareness and targeted interventions, women with spinal cord injuries may learn to experience and express their sexuality more fully, thereby increasing their health and overall satisfaction with self and partner. Treatment implications and future research directions are discussed.


Psychology, Clinical

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text