Approach and avoidance sexual motives: Implications for personal and interpersonal well-being


  • The studies reported here were based on Emily A. Impett's dissertation. Preparation of this article was supported by a fellowship awarded to the first author from the Sexuality Research Fellowship Program of the Social Science Research Council with funds provided by the Ford Foundation. We thank Katie Bishop, Renee Delgado, and Laura Tsang for their assistance with data collection and Andrew Christensen, Terri Conley, Martie Haselton, and Linda Sax for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

should be addressed to Emily A. Impett, Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality, San Francisco State University, 2017 Mission Street #300, San Francisco, CA 94110, e-mail:


This research provides the first empirical investigation of how approach and avoidance motives for engaging in sex in intimate relationships are associated with personal well-being and relationship quality. A 2-week daily experience study of college student dating couples tested specific predictions from the theoretical model and included both longitudinal and dyadic components. Whereas approach sex motives were positively associated with personal and interpersonal well-being, avoidance sex motives were negatively associated with well-being. Engaging in sex for avoidance motives was particularly detrimental to the maintenance of relationships over time. Perceptions of a partner's motives for sex were also associated with well-being. Implications for the conceptualization of sexuality in relationships along these two dimensions are discussed.