Sex and Relationships in the Time of COVID-19

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to better understand the romantic and sexual lives of adults during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic (2020). This virus and the resulting societal changes are new to nearly all of us, and this event may be pushing people together or apart in ways that we’ve not previously seen or studied. Developing a better understanding of how people feel and behave in emergency contexts is important for both research and clinical practice, in order to plan for both positive and negative outcomes and prepare for events like this in the future.

Participation is voluntary and open. Participants were asked to complete online surveys about their background (e.g., education level, income, gender); thoughts and behaviors related to COVID-19 (e.g., social distancing behaviors, stress and worry); personality, attachment style, and view on relationships; sexual behavior recently and over the last year; and the quality of their current romantic and sexual relationships, if partnered. Being in a relationship or currently being sexually active was not a requirement for participation. 

Methods - Data Collection

Data were collected as part of the “Sex and Relationships in the Time of COVID-19” study. Participants were recruited using an Internet-based snowball sampling method. Data collection began in March 2020. Initial recruitment was conducted through standardized messages posted to The Kinsey Institute’s public social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn). Initial recruitment posts were then widely shared and reposted by other social media users (e.g., individuals, organizations, researchers) including by those participating, resulting in a regionally and demographically diverse participant pool, albeit not representative of any particular nation. All data were collected over the Internet.

The survey tool included a variety of unique and validated measures, and was housed on Qualtrics using a licensed and protected custom user account. After accessing the survey link, prospective participants were asked to read and acknowledge a study information sheet that included a brief description of the study and how to enter an incentive raffle for gift card compensation. Participants were told that their responses were part of an initial survey study, and that if they chose to provide contact information they would be invited to participate in additional survey waves for longitudinal assessment, with the ability to enter additional incentive raffles. Follow-up assessments were conducted two and four weeks after the date of initial survey completion. In the study confidentiality statement, participants were informed that they would only be contacted for follow-up data collection, and that any identifying information would be stored separately from their research response data. All research procedures were approved by Indiana University’s Institutional Review Board.

Research Team

Dr. Justin Garcia, Acting Executive Director, The Kinsey Institute & IU Bicentennial Professor

Dr. Amanda Gesselman, Anita Aldrich Endowed Research Scientist & Associate Director for Research, The Kinsey Institute

Dr. Justin Lehmiller, Research Fellow, The Kinsey Institute

Dr. Kristen Mark, Associate Professor & Director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab, University of Kentucky 

Research Publications

Lehmiller, J.L., Garcia, J.R., Gesselman, A.N., & Mark, K.P. (In Press). Less sex, but more sexual diversity: Changes in sexual behavior during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Leisure Sciences.

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