A descriptive study of female sexuality in midlife: Implications for the development of adult sex education programs

Carole Israeloff Zawid, University of Pennsylvania


The present investigation was initiated so that sex educators could begin to ascertain the adult sex education priorities of midlife women. One hundred and six women, between the ages of 40 to 60 years, were surveyed via several modes of assessment: a demographic questionnaire developed by the investigator, the Derogatis Sexual Function Inventory and semi-structured interviews. The discussion of this survey included statistical analysis of sexual functioning changes that occur during the aging process via a comparison of the DSFIs population of younger women (mean age of 32.33) to the present investigator's sample (mean age of 47) and correlations of midlife developmental issues identified by the investigator to the 10 subdomains of the DSFI. Compared to the younger cohort, midlife women has less sexual experience, lower affect, lower sex drive, more conservative attitudes, more polarized gender role definition, lower body image and less sexual satisfaction. Results comparing specific midlife demographic characteristics found that the older the individual the less sexual knowledge, experience, and liberality. Women in more satisfying relationships reported more sexual experiences, higher sex drive, and higher self-perception of sexual satisfaction. Level of education and career attainment was significantly correlated to sexual experience, more liberal attitudes, higher drive, and information. Issues regarding health of self and partner affected drive, body image, sexual experience and sexual satisfaction. Women who received their sex education as a child from their parents reported a higher sex drive and were more likely to pursue sex education as adults. Attitudes and interest regarding sex education programs were positive. Fifty-six percent responded positively to the concept of adult sex education. The interviews supported this data with women reporting various levels of interest in sex education. Implications regarding the development of alternative means of education, rather than formalized presentations included more media exposure for sex education and educating the health professional in the sexual health needs and interest of this group, which included menopause and changes in sexuality.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Developmental psychology|Adult education|Continuing education

Recommended Citation

Zawid, Carole Israeloff, "A descriptive study of female sexuality in midlife: Implications for the development of adult sex education programs" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026674.