A Multimethod Investigation of Sex, Romantic Relationships, and Interpersonal Dependency

Arch Sex Behav. 2021 Aug;50(6):2621-2629. doi: 10.1007/s10508-021-01932-x. Epub 2021 Jul 19.


An individual's level of interpersonal dependency influences the way they engage with others, and researchers have achieved a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between dependency and interpersonal relationships across an array of social situations. This knowledge has improved the efficacy of medical and psychotherapeutic work with dependent clients and has informed approaches taken to reduce the societal costs of dependent personality disorder (e.g., increased risk for suicide and self-harm, perpetration of child abuse, perpetration of domestic violence, victimization by a partner, and physical illness). Relatively little research, however, has explored dependency's links to sexual activity and sexual functioning, the findings of which stand to offer knowledge valuable to sex counseling, couples therapy, sexual health, and our overall understanding of sexuality. The current study utilized a multimethod research design to explore dependency as it relates to sexual and romantic relationships and sexual activity. Multiple associations emerged between dependency, both interpersonal dependency and a healthy variant of dependency, and sexual activity. Based upon these findings and contemporary literature, an initial discussion of some of the therapeutic implications of this knowledge and suggestions for working with dependent clients are offered.

Keywords: Couples therapy; Dependent personality; Multimethod research; Sex therapy; Sexual functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Crime Victims*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexuality