Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Laura R. Johnson

Second Advisor

Alan M. Gross


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Sexual satisfaction has been shown to be related to many positive factors such as high relationship satisfaction enhanced physical and psychological health and increased overall well-being. Despite making up 27% of the sexually active population in the United States young people (ages 15-24) but are typically not taught about the benefits of sexual satisfaction or how to have a pleasurable sexual experience. Due to their high risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies most education and research on young people’s sexuality focuses on risk behaviors and prevention. The goal of this study was to take a positive outlook on young people’s sexuality by exploring two types of sexual knowledge health and personal preferences/needs in the context of sexual pleasure. A Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan 2002) framework was used to propose how sexual knowledge and assertiveness would relate to young people’s satisfaction via sexual competence. It was hypothesized that individuals need to be sexually knowledgeable to assert themselves during sexual interactions. If sexual knowledge and assertiveness are present during sexual encounters individuals will feel more sexually competent which in turn will lead to more sexual satisfaction. Mediation analyses were conducted to investigate the role of sexual knowledge on sexual satisfaction via two serial mediators sexual assertiveness and sexual competence. Participants were 348 undergraduate students ages 18 to 23 (M = 18.91; SD = 1.02) from a medium-sized university in the Southern United States who reported sexual activity with another person during the past six months. Statistical analyses shosignificant direct effects of personal sexual knowledge on sexual assertiveness competence and satisfaction. Further an indirect path between personal sexual knowledge and sexual satisfaction was found going through sexual assertiveness first folloby sexual competence. Finally sexual health knowledge shoa significant effect on sexual competence and a significant indirect effect on sexual satisfaction via competence. Findings from the present study highlight the importance of sexual knowledge and assertiveness in young people’s sex lives and help understand how to support young people’s sexual competence and satisfaction.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.