Sex Roles, Vol. 42, Nos. 9/10, 2000
Discrepant Self-Views and Young Women’s Sexual
and Emotional Adjustment
and Sherry Farrow
Washington State University
Young women in the United States receive conﬂicting messages about being
sexually moral versus sexually desirable. Drawing from self-discrepancy
theory, we hypothesized that women’s internalization of messages about
morality and desirability inﬂuence their ought and ideal self-guides for sexual-
ity, respectively. Further, we expected that women who viewed their actual
selves as signiﬁcantly less positive/more negative than their self-guides would
endorse greater sexual and emotional problems. In Study 1, never-married
undergraduate women (N ϭ 242) completed measures of sexual self-views,
ought self-guides, and sexual adjustment. In Study 2, another sample (N ϭ
170) also completed measures of ideal self-guides, depression, and anxiety.
Participants were predominantly Caucasian and from upper middle-class
backgrounds. Both negative actual:ought and actual:ideal discrepancies were
associated with poorer sexual adjustment. Negative actual:ought discrepanc-
ies were associated with anxiety but not depression, whereas negative ac-
tual:ideal discrepancies were associated with both anxiety and depression.
Self-discrepancy theory is a useful framework for understanding how self-
standards for sexual morality versus desirability are associated with young
women’s emotional and sexual adjustment.
Sexual self-schemata are cognitive representations about the self as a sexual
person (Andersen & Cyranowski, 1994). In research with women, sexual
self-schemata are associated with different patterns of sexual attitudes and
We gratefully acknowledge Heather Lindemann and Chelsea Brogger for their assistance
with data collection and Jami Goodrich for her assistance with data management. We also
thank Paul Kwon, Stephanie Washington Kuffel, and two anonymous reviewers for their
helpful comments on an early version of the manuscript.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Psychology, Washington
State University, P.O. Box 644820, Pullman, Washington 99164-4820. Fax: (509) 335-5043.
0360-0025/00/0500-0781$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation