Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Using Spiritual Resources to Prevent Declines in Sexuality among First-Time Parents

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Annette Mahoney

Second Advisor

Kenneth Pargament (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Alfred DeMaris (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Anne Gordon (Committee Member)


Using a rigorous longitudinal design, this dissertation examined whether spiritual beliefs and practices centered on marriage are resources that predict 164 married, first time parents’ sexual satisfaction and intimacy from pregnancy to their child’s first birthday. Spiritual resources were defined using the conceptual frameworks of sanctification of marriage, and individual and joint positive spiritual coping to handle marital difficulties. Contrary to expectations, greater sanctification of marriage, and the use of positive individual and joint spiritual coping did not predict sexual functioning from the third trimester of pregnancy to one year later after accounting for demographics, initial levels of sexual outcomes, and global religiousness. Some direct effects were found when only the given spiritual resource was entered in regression analyses. Analyses also supported the unique roles of initial levels of sexual functioning, biblical conservatism, and conflict about sex as predictors of spouses’ future sexual quality. Both wives and husbands reported very high marital and sexual functioning across time, and thus indicated little to no stress that may have otherwise necessitated coping processes and impacted negatively their sexual bond during this transition. Therefore, while sanctification and coping have been found to be helpful in predicting individual and relational functioning, they did not emerge as particularly advantageous for these reportedly very happy, married couples. Several directions for future research are discussed.