Honors Program

[Honors-in-Discipline (Choose below)], Honors in Psychology

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Julia Dodd

Thesis Professor Department

<--College of Arts and Sciences-->

Thesis Reader(s)

Stacey Williams


Sexual dysfunction can lead to a negative impact upon a person’s mental and relational health, including relational and overall distress, poor relationship and sexual satisfaction, and clinical mood disorders such as depression. Moving upstream to identify factors that may predict sexual dysfunction would therefore be beneficial for early intervention in at-risk populations. History of childhood trauma is one such factor that may influence sexual functioning later in life. While adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been less studied in association with sexual dysfunction, there is some evidence to indicate that they may be related. ACEs have been shown to increase the risk of physical and psychological conditions (such as physical inactivity, obesity, heart disease, substance use, depression, and anxiety) which can then impede sexual functioning; further, a study of sex therapy patients found that their ACE scores were significantly higher than those in community samples. Additionally, difficulties in emotion regulation (DERS) may also play an important role in this relationship, as they have been shown to mediate the relationship between ACEs and several subsequent health risks. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there was a significant relationship between ACEs and sexual problems, and further, if emotion regulation difficulties mediated this relationship. College students (N = 696) were recruited to complete an online survey of their health behaviors. The overall mediated model was significant, F(2, 692) = 5.78, p = .003, but explained only 1.6% of the variance in sexual functioning. Although ACEs significantly predicted both sexual functioning (b = 0.60, t(694) = 3.40, p < 0.001) and DERS (b = 2.08, t(694) = 4.83, p < 0.001), DERS did not significantly predict sexual functioning (b = -0.01, t(694) = -0.63, p = 0.52), and did not emerge as a significant mediator of the relationship between ACEs and sexual functioning (b = -.02, CI [-.08,.05]). Further, in contrast to hypotheses, participants with higher ACE scores actually reported higher sexual functioning relative to participants with lower ACE scores in this sample. Results highlight the complexities of the relationship between ACEs and current sexual functioning. While difficulties in emotion regulation are still likely to be clinically significant for individuals with trauma histories, they do not appear to be a major contributing factor to difficulties in sexual functioning.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.