Date of Award

August 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Erin Ruppel

Committee Members

Mike Allen, Erin Sahlstein-Parcell, Sang-Yeon Kim


The positive personal and relational outcomes of sexual self-disclosure (SS-D) in the context of current sexual partner have received considerable scholarly attention in the context of current sexual partners. Despite the numerous benefits, SS-D is difficult for partners to perform, and current literature does not fully explain, nor predict, why and when SS-D is likely to occur. This dissertation was conducted to formalize the propositions of the Sexual Self-Disclosure Decision Model (SS-DDM), a novel theoretical model to explain the factors leading up to, or away from, SS-D. The SS-DDM proposes a three-phase disclosure decision process including antecedent, assessment, and decision. The proposed theoretical causal chain begins with antecedents (phase 1) such as psychological dispositions (approach-avoidance motives and goals) leading to the individual’s assessment. Their assessment phase (phase 2) includes disclosure efficacy and positive or negative outcomes for themselves, their partner, and their relationship. The decision to disclose (phase 3) is based on the individual’s belief they can effectively disclose (i.e., efficacy) and the expectation of more positive than negative outcomes for themselves, their partner, and the relationship. A cross-sectional survey collected data from a large (N = 390) and demographically diverse sample of current sexual partners using Amazon Mechanical Turk. Structural equation modeling was used to conduct the initial test of the three phases. Results supported the antecedent, hope for affiliation and fear of rejection motives, manifesting into approach and avoidance goals and the subsequent assessment phases. In this model goals acted as a proximal psychological disposition to disclosure efficacy, where disclosure efficacy effects lead to more positive than negative outcome assessments for themselves, their partner, and their relationship. The final decision phase included support for disclosure efficacy as the key factor driving the decision to disclose; however, this study did not find outcome assessments to impact the participant’s intent to reveal their sexual desires. The present study offers initial support for the SS-DDM and suggests modifications to prior self-regulation theories. For example, disclosure efficacy was found to fully mediate the association between approach and avoidance goals with SS-D intent, suggesting the disclosure process model (DPM, Chaudoir & Fisher, 2010) has oversimplified the complex disclosure process. Furthermore, the SS-DDM provides practical value being the first theoretical model sex and relationship practitioners can use with their patients in coordinating interventions.

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Communication Commons