Major Department

Social Work


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2018

Honors Major Advisor

Kate Kemp

Thesis Mentor

Alison Oliver


The internal working model is a central tenet in attachment theory and is critical to the organization of the attachment behavioral system. Consisting of beliefs about the self, attachment figures, and these figures’ behaviors when needed, the internal working model informs attachment behaviors and styles. The amount and breadth of attachment-based studies has increased, with attachment theorists and researchers observing correlations between attachment and sexual behaviors. Such links have been found between attachment style and sexual satisfaction. However, current attachment research lacks a sufficient operative definition of sexual satisfaction and an effective model for gauging it. Research on sexual satisfaction in relation to attachment necessitates an integrative approach, bridging attachment research with current research on sexuality and sexual self-efficacy. The Self-determination Theory model of sexual satisfaction measures satisfaction through the meeting of basic needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Under the SDT framework of sexual satisfaction, the author suggests that sexual satisfaction is reflective of the attachment relationship’s sexually activated internal working model—that is, the internal working model is predictive of sexual satisfaction—whereas the nature of the sexual relationship, be it casual or non-casual, is not. The results indicate a positive relationship between the internal working model and sexual satisfaction, with no evidence of a relationship between relationship type and satisfaction. With results suggesting that individuals can possess both global and relationship-specific internal workings models and even several different models in a single attachment relationship, situational specificity in these assessments is a necessity.


internal working model, attachment, self-determination theory, casual sexual relationships

Total Pages

56 pages


Copyright © 2018 Sadie Elbert

Included in

Social Work Commons