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J Adolesc Health. 2011 Jun;48(6):610-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.09.008. Epub 2010 Dec 30.

The association between developmental assets and sexual enjoyment among emerging adults.

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Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



To examine the associations between three key developmental assets and an aspect of sexual health, sexual enjoyment, which has rarely been studied in young adults, although its importance is stressed in all recent sexual health policy statements.


Using data from wave III (2001-2002) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and multiple logistic and ordered logistic regression, we explored the associations between sexual pleasure and autonomy, self-esteem, and empathy among 3,237 respondents aged 18-26 years in heterosexual relationships of ≥ 3-month duration. We also examined the distribution of sexual pleasure across various socio-demographic groups.


Compared with young women, young men reported more regular orgasms and more enjoyment of two kinds of partnered sexual behavior. Sexual enjoyment was not associated with age, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Among women, autonomy, self-esteem, and empathy co-varied positively with all three sexual enjoyment measures. Among men, all associations were in the same direction, but not all were statistically significant.


A substantial gender difference in enjoyment of partnered sexual behavior exists among emerging adults in the United States. This study is the first to use a representative population sample to find a relationship between developmental assets and a positive aspect of sexual health - sexual pleasure.

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