The development of a measure of female sexual self-esteem

Date of Completion

January 1992


Psychology, Clinical




Most of the empirical literature on adolescent sexuality addresses behavioral aspects of sexual development, but relatively little research has been directed toward subjective perceptions of sexuality. To begin to address this gap, a measure of female sexual self-esteem (SSE) was developed to explore subjective evaluations of one's own sexuality. The 81-item measure contains five subscales which reflect five hypothesized domains of sexual self-esteem: Skill/Experience, Attractiveness, Control, Moral Judgement, and Adaptiveness.^ A total of 339 female volunteers from introductory psychology classes at the University of Connecticut participated in the main study. Reliability analyses indicated that the subscales have high internal consistency. Although the subscales are moderately to highly intercorrelated, factor analyses provided evidence that each subscale is unidimensional and reflects, in part, a different aspect of self-appraisal in the sexual domain.^ Construct validity was assessed by testing hypotheses regarding the effects of sexual experience, relationship commitment, sex guilt, and global self-esteem. Although subscales were not uniquely predicted by the models tested, in most cases, specific SSE subscales were more strongly associated with a predicted or specific constellation of predictor variables than the others. These findings suggest that different domains of sexual self-esteem are affected by different situations, and provide evidence for the multidimensionality of sexual self-esteem.^ Additional evidence of construct validity was demonstrated by low correlations of SSE items and subscales with measures of social desirability, and by the consistently stronger predictive power of the SSE subscales versus a global measure of self-esteem. Furthermore, in comparisons with nonabused subjects, sexually-abused subjects scored significantly lower on all subscales. The Control, Adaptiveness, and Moral Judgement subscales most consistently revealed differences between abused and nonabused subjects, and these differences were greater than differences obtained with a global measure of self-esteem.^ Overall, the findings provide strong evidence of the reliability of each SSE subscale, as well as initial evidence of their construct validity in a college-student sample and a sexually-abused subsample. Methodological strengths and limitations of the study, and clinical and research implications of the findings are discussed. ^