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Commitment: Moderating the Relationship Between BMI and Sexual Satisfaction 1,


Charlie V. Champion Emily A. Butler Ashley K. Randall University of Arizona 1, Arizona State University 2




Conclusions and Implications

The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of commitment in romantic relationships and its relation to BMI and sexual satisfaction. Previous research suggests that BMI and sexual satisfaction are correlated, but this study examines commitment as a moderator of that relationship. The hypothesis was that higher commitment predicts greater sexual satisfaction for people with overweight partners. Fortyone heterosexual couples were given a survey that contained questions about height & weight, his/her level of commitment to the relationship, along with questions about sexual satisfaction and frequency. The results suggest that the women with overweight partners have lower sexual satisfaction than the other women, but at high levels of commitment the partner’s weight is unrelated to satisfaction. As a result of this study, further research could examine whether commitment has the same effect on women’s sexual satisfaction in relation to body image in addition to BMI.

To test our predictions, we collected baseline questionnaire data from a community sample of heterosexual, cohabiting couples. Participants 41 couples. Age ranged from 18 to 53 years old (M= 24.3, SD= 6.6); Relationship duration ranged from 5 mo to 5.8 years (M= 2.0 yrs, SD= 16.1). Procedure Couples completed a baseline questionnaire, which included questions regarding commitment to the relationship (Rusbult 1998), sexual satisfaction (adapted from Kansans Marital Satisfaction Scale), and demographics which included weight and height to derive BMI. A commitment high variable and a commitment low variable were created using the mean of the commitment variable’s first quartile and third quartile numbers, respectively. BMI was releveled into four new variables: HH (both partners have high BMI), LL (both partners have healthy BMI), HL (self has high BMI, partner has healthy BMI) and LH (self has healthy BMI, partner has high BMI). Dyadic multiple regression was used to test for the interaction of BMI-category and commitment predicting sexual satisfaction. Measures Commitment Scale included questions such as, “I am committed to maintaining my relationship with my partner.” Sexual Satisfaction Scale included questions such as, “How sexually satisfied are you with your sexual relationship with your partner?”

Most current research on sexual satisfaction, weight, and commitment has focused on the women in partnerships so it is not surprising that the associations we found were only significant for women. However, these results do emphasize the influence of partners in romantic partnerships, which is an aspect of these variables that has not been investigated as much. These findings highlight areas for future research. Sex differences should be further analyzed to understand if these associations effect men in any way, for example, does a man’s own BMI effect sexual satisfaction and what role does commitment play in that association? Also, it’s been shown that body image is a stronger predictor of sexual satisfaction than weight (S. Satinsky et al. 2012) so body image could be substituted for BMI. Positive body image and happiness are highly correlated (Pan et al. 2002) so there are implications in further research for couples counseling.

It’s been found that sexual satisfaction is positively correlated with happiness and satisfaction with life, suggesting that sexual satisfaction is a significant component of quality of life (Dogan et al. 2013). Women with satisfying sexual relationships consistently report high relationship satisfaction (Rosen and Bachmann, 2008). Commitment, in the context of romantic partnerships, can mean “the behavioral inclination to maintain the relationship” (Schoebi, Karney, and Bradbury, 2012). It’s been found that people feel more positively about their relationships and more likely to stay in relationships when they express higher levels of commitment (Weigel, Brown, and O’Riordan, 2011). Commitment is also a predictor of sexual satisfaction (Sprecher, 2002). Intimacy, sexual frequency, and commitment were all found to be important factors related to loving and satisfaction for both men and women (Yela, 2000). There appears to be a gap in the literature discussing the role of commitment in the relationship between BMI and sexual satisfaction. We know from previous research that commitment is positively associated with sexual satisfaction and that it’s a strong predictor for many relationship factors (e.g. sexual/relationship satisfaction, divorce likelihood, etc.). We also know that BMI and sexual satisfaction are negatively correlated (Kolotin et al. 2006) but we don’t know whether a powerful third variable, such as commitment, could alter that relationship by overriding the effects of BMI.

Results Hypothesis: Higher commitment predicts greater sexual satisfaction for people with overweight partners. Partially supported. Significant for women. At low levels of commitment, women with overweight partners reported lower sexual satisfaction than women with healthy weight partners, but at high levels of commitment the partner’s weight is unrelated to sexual satisfaction. p = .01. 6 5  

Sexual Sa(sfac(on  









1 0  

Commit Low  

Commit High  

Commitment Level  

The authors thank Jesi Post, Rebecca Reed, Shannon Corkery, Morgan Kelly, and Valerie Young for their roles in data management, collection and cleaning. The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institute of Health, Grant # 1R21HL109746-01A1. A PDF version of this academic poster is available at:

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