Effects of a Sexual Health Interview among Arab American Women: An Experimental Disclosure Study

Abstract

Although sexuality is an important aspect of peoples’ health and well-being, many people—professionals and patients alike—find sexuality uncomfortable to discuss. In Arab culture, certain sexual thoughts and behaviors are taboo, particularly for women, and it is not known whether an interview in which Arab American women disclose their sexuality to a health professional would be well-received and beneficial or upsetting and harmful. This experimental study tested whether engaging in a disclosure-oriented sexual health interview affects Arab American women’s sexual and psychological health. A sample of 134 Arab American women, ages 18–35 years (M = 20.6), completed self-report measures of sexual health and attitudes and psychological symptoms, and then were randomized to an interview or control (waitlist) condition. The 60-min disclosure interview inquired about sexual attitudes, experiences, and conflicts. Five weeks later, all participants completed follow-up measures. Post-interview reports suggest that participants responded favorably to the interview and generally benefited from participation. Analyses of covariance (controlling for baseline levels of the outcome measure) indicated that the interview led to significantly greater sexual satisfaction and less discomfort with sexual self-disclosure at 5-week follow-up, compared to controls; the two conditions did not differ on follow-up sexual self-schema, sexual self-esteem, or psychological symptoms. Moderation analyses revealed that participation in the interview differentially improved the sexual self-schema of women with no past sexual experience, compared to women with sexual experience. These experimental findings suggest the value, rather than the risk, of clinicians encouraging Arab American women to openly disclose and discuss their sexual experiences and attitudes in a confidential, empathic setting.

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Acknowledgements

This research is based on the doctoral dissertation of the first author (HJH), under the direction of the last author (MAL). Dr. Holmes is now at the Department of Psychology, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina.

Funding

The research was supported by a Student Award from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation (Grant No. 2483.SAP).

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Correspondence to Hannah J. Holmes.

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Holmes, H.J., Yamin, J.B., Krohner, S. et al. Effects of a Sexual Health Interview among Arab American Women: An Experimental Disclosure Study. Arch Sex Behav 50, 373–384 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01678-y

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Keywords

  • Arab American
  • Sexual health
  • Interview
  • Disclosure
  • Moderation analyses