Brief Index of Sexual Functioning for Women

Brief Index of Sexual Functioning for Women

RAYMOND C. ROSEN,1 JENNIFER F. TAYLORAND SANDRA R. LEIBLUMUniversity of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

The Brief Index of Sexual Functioning for Women (BISF- W) was developed in response to the lack of a brief, standardized self-report measure of overall sexual function in women. Previous self-report measures have been either overly restrictive or inappropriate for use in large-scale clinical trials. None of the self-report measures to date provide a comprehensive, reliable assessment of key dimensions of sexual function in women, including sexual desire, orgasm, and satisfaction. Reynolds et al. (1988) have described the Brief Sexual Function Questionnaire (BSFQ) for men, a 21-item self-report inventory of sexual interest, activity, satisfaction, and preference. The BSFQ has been found to be highly reliable, and to discriminate between depressed, sexually dysfunctional, and healthy males (Howell et al., 1987; Reynolds et al., 1988). Surprisingly, no corresponding measures to the BSFQ for self-report assessment of female sexual function were available. The present questionnaire was developed to provide a comparable, brief self-report measure of sexual function for women.


The BISF-W consists of 22 items, assessing the major dimensions of sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction. Several items were adapted from the BSFQ, particularly those assessing frequency of sexual behavior, fantasy, masturbation, and sexual preference. Additional items were included to address specific issues believed to affect women’s sexual functioning and satisfaction, such as body image, partner satisfaction, and sexual anxiety. Several items were designed to evaluate sexual performance difficulties in women, such as diminished arousal or lubrication, pain or tightness during inter- course, and difficulties in reaching orgasm. Items assessing the impact of health problems on sexual functioning are also included. Most items are arranged in Likert-type format to rate the frequency of occurrence of sexual desire, arousal or satisfaction associated with common sexual behaviors. Based upon a principal components analysis, three major factors were identified, which were labelled Sexual Desire, Sexual Activity, and Sexual Satisfaction.

Response Mode and Timing

Respondents are required to circle the single best answer to each question. The inventory takes approximately 1015 minutes to complete.


Individual items are scored and the aggregate scores for each of the three major factors are computed. Items for the Sexual Desire factor are 3, 6, 8, 14, and 20. Items for the Sexual Activity factor are 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 17, and Items for the Sexual Satisfaction factor are 6, 9, 10, 15, 18, and 19. Item 16 is used independently as a measure of body image. Items 1, 2, 21, and 22 assess the presence of a sexual partner, sexual activity during the past month, and the respondent’s sexual orientation, in terms of both experience and desire. These items are individually scored.‌


In a sample of 269 women, aged 2073, test-retest reliability was assessed by means of repeated administration of the questionnaire over a 1-month interval. Reliability was determined by means of a Pearson correlation coefficient between factor scores at the baseline and 1-month retest interval. Internal consistency was evaluated by means of Cronbach alpha coefficients for each of the factor scales. The test-retest reliability of factor scores ranged from .68 to .78. The internal consistency of the instrument ranged between .39 for Factor 1 to .83 for Factor 2. The relatively low consistency for Factor 1 was attributed to the split loading of several items with other factors.


No significant correlations were observed between the BISF-W factor scores and the Marlowe-Crowne (1964)

Social Desirability Scale. This indicates that responses to the BISF-W were not biased by the effects of social desirability. Concurrent validity was assessed by means of comparison of specific factor scores with the corresponding scales of the Derogatis Sexual Function Inventory (DSFI; 1975), a comprehensive, 261-item measure of sexual information, attitudes, experience, drive, body image, sex roles, and sexual satisfaction. Correlations between BISF-W factors and subscales of the DSFI were all in a positive direction, ranging from .59 to .69. Item 16, which assesses body image, was significantly correlated with the DSFI Body Image Scale (= .62, < .001). The scale has been used for assessment of sexual functioning in a community-based sample of 329 adult women (Rosen, Taylor, Leiblum, & Bachmann, 1993).

Other Information

The DSFI may be obtained through the MAPI Institute (


Address correspondence to Raymond C. Rosen, New England Research Institutes, Inc., 9 Galen Street, Watertown, MA 02472; e-mail: [email protected]


Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1964). The approval motive: Studies in evaluative dependence. New York: Wiley.

Derogatis, L. R. (1975). Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory (DSFI): Preliminary scoring manual. Baltimor, MD: Clinical Psychometric Research Inc.

Howell, J. R., Reynolds, C. F., Thase, M. E., Frank, E., Jennings, J. R., Houck, P. R., Berman, S., Jacobs, E., & Kupfer, D. J. (1987). Assessment of sexual function, interest, and activity in depressed men. Journal of Affective Disorders, 13, 61–66.

Reynolds, C. F., Frank, E., Thase, M. E., Houck, P. R., Jennings, J. R., Howell, J. R., Lilienfeld, S. O., & Kupfer, D. J. (1988). Assessment of sexual function in depressed, impotent, and healthy men: Factor analysis of a Brief Sexual Function Questionnaire for men. Psychiatric Research, 24, 231–250.

Rosen, R. C., Taylor, J. F., Leiblum, S. R., & Bachmann, G. A. (1993). Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in women: Results of a survey study of 329 women in an outpatient gynecological clinic. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 19, 171–188.