Sexuality in Older Couples: Individual and Dyadic Characteristics

Linda Waite, University of Chicago
James Iveniuk, University of Chicago
Edward O. Laumann, University of Chicago
Martha McClintock, University of Chicago

This paper examines the sources of sexual activity in older adulthood. We analyze both features of the marital/cohabitational dyad (relationship satisfaction, conflict, physical touching), as well as individual characteristics (personality, physical health, desire for sex, subjective importance of sex), in terms of their importance for frequency of sex in older couples. We use data from a nationally representative survey of older adults, which includes information on both partners in 953 dyads. We also employ structural equation modeling techniques to capture older adults' propensity to represent themselves positively across Big Five traits - a personality characteristic that we name Positivity. We find that husbands' (but not wives') Positivity is positively associated with sexual activity in older adulthood, and that this association is partially mediated by relationship quality, but moreso by individual factors such as thinking about sex and believing sex is important.

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Presented in Session 175: Couple Dynamics and Relationships in Later Life