University doctoral candidate researches secret behind a happy relationship

Social psychology doctoral candidate Randal Brown finds that positive sexual communication can lead to a happy relationship

Dan Weigel, left, worked with Randal Brown, right, throughout the research and writing process in order to discover the secret behind a happy relationship.


6/16/2017 | By: Hannah Richardson |

One of the secrets to a happy relationship lies within the text of University of Nevada, Reno researcher and social psychology doctoral candidate Randal Brown's research article, Exploring a Contextual Model of Sexual Self-Disclosure and Sexual Satisfaction that was published in The Journal of Sex Research in March. In his article, Brown explores the mechanisms that facilitate a person's engagement in sexual self-disclosure, the communication of ‘sexual likes and dislikes,' and finds that sexual satisfaction is predicted by a positive relationship context and a positive sexual self-disclosure context.

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To gather research, Brown developed an online survey to test a contextual model of sexual self-disclosure across three contexts including relationship context, sexual self-disclosure context and outcome of sexual self-disclosure. Brown distributed the survey to 265 individuals, all who were involved in romantic relationships. According to the article's abstract, "the findings emphasize the importance of examining contextual influences that determine whether an individual will engage in or avoid sexual self-disclosure and the consequences of this engagement or avoidance on sexual satisfaction."

Brown's motivation in researching the subject stems from a variety of reasons including his interest in social psychology, specifically in studying how romantic and sexual partners relate to one another, and from his early studies as an undergraduate at Eastern Michigan University.

"Since taking human sexuality during undergrad, I've been puzzled as to why people talk openly about sex with their friends, but when it comes to talking to their partners about sex, suddenly we can't find the words," Brown said. "I think that's quite a paradox, given that we are raised to believe that sex is the most intimate we can be with someone, yet talking about sex is somehow impossible. This study served as the first step in identifying why some people are more comfortable talking about sex than others."

Brown's most enjoyable aspect of the project was working with Dan Weigel, professor of social psychology in the graduate program of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Nevada, Reno and Brown's doctoral advisor.

"Dr. Dan Weigel is incredibly supportive and really helped guide me through the process of designing a study, analyzing the data and then writing up the results in a way that was clear and concise," Brown said. "I've learned an awful lot from Dr. Weigel, and I'm beyond grateful for his mentorship."

Brown is currently analyzing data and writing two articles that build off of this study, and plans to continue researching and writing about sexual self-disclosure in the future.

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