Dyadic Sexual Regulation Scale

Dyadic Sexual Regulation Scale‌‌‌‌

JOSEPH A. CATANIA,1 University of California, San Francisco

The Dyadic Sexual Regulation Scale (DSR) measures the extent to which an individual perceives sexual activity to be regulated from an internal versus an external locus of control. In developing a locus of control scale specific to the dyadic sexual situation, we sought to develop a scale that assesses perceptions of the ability to emit behaviors that (a) influence the acquisition and termination of sexual rewards, (b) effect events between these latter two points, and (c) prevent or avoid aversive sexual encounters. Moreover, the scale would reflect control flexibility, which is generally defined as an individual’s ability either to relinquish or to accept control, dependent on the variant nature of social/sexual interactions.


The DSR is an 11-item, subject- or interviewer-administered, Likert-type scale with seven points (1 = strongly dis- agree, 7 = strongly agree). The scale items were derived from open-ended interviews about sexual attitudes with heterosexual and homosexual couples. Five items are reversed (Items 2, 5, 6, 8, 10) for counter-balancing purposes. A shortened five-item interviewer-administered form of the DSR is also available.

Response Mode and Timing

All forms of the scale are available in English and Spanish. The expanded form is self-administered; the briefer revised form is interviewer administered. Both forms take 1–2 minutes to complete.


After reversing the reverse-worded items, total scores are computed so that higher scores indicate a greater degree of internal control. Sum across scores to obtain total score. Scale scores range from 11 (external) to 77 (internal).

Reliability and Validity

The DSR has been administered to varied populations, including college students, national urban probability samples constructed to adequately represent White, Black, and Hispanic ethnic groups, and high HIV-‌ risk-factor groups (Catania, Coates, Kegeles, et al., 1992; Catania, Coates, Stall, et al., 1992). The DSR scale has also been administered to respondents from introductory psychology classes at a university recruited to participate in a sexual survey study that assessed locus of control in sexual contexts (Catania, McDermott, & Wood, 1984). The college-age analyses (Catania et al., 1984) examined only heterosexuals who had a current, regular sexual partner. Sample 1 consisted of 151 White students (59 males and 92 females) with a mean age of 27. Sample 2 consisted of 27 males and 43 females with similar demographic features as Sample 1. Reliability was good (Cronbach’s alpha = .74 in Sample 1, and .83 in Sample 2). A principal component analysis with varimax rotation was conducted on the DSR items for Sample 1. There were no item loadings greater than .30 beyond the first factor, and the first factor accounted for 95% of the variance. Test- retest reliability was .77, with a 2-week interval. The DSR revealed convergent validity with the Nowicki-Strickland Adult Internal-External Control Scale (NSLC; Nowicki & Duke, 1974), r = .19, p < .05, df = 149 (Catania et al., 1984). The DSR was found to be related with each dyadic measure of sexual activity. The scale was not found to be related to monadic activities (i.e., masturbation), further supporting the concurrent validity of the DSR with locus of control. Internality with regard to sexual activity is associated with higher frequencies of intercourse, oral sex from partner, orgasms with partner, sexual relations, affectionate behaviors, and sexual satisfaction, and with lesser anxiety in sexual situations. DSR was not found to be related to gender. In contrast the NSLC was more weakly associated with each criterion.

The five-item, shortened version of the DSR was administered to respondents recruited to participate in the 1990–1991 National AIDS Behavior Survey2 (NABS) longitudinal cohort study, which was composed of three inter- laced samples designed to oversample African Americans and Hispanics for adequate representation (Catania, Coates, Kegeles, et al., 1992). The interlaced samples included a national sample, an urban sample of 23 cities with high prevalences of AIDS cases, and a special Hispanic urban sample. The revised version of the DSR was administered to 4,620 respondents between the ages of 18–49. Reliability was good (Cronbach’s alpha = .62 total sample). Means, standard deviations, range, median, and reliabilities are given for White, Black, and Hispanic groups, males and females, and levels of education for both national and urban-high risk city samples (Table 1). The shortened five- item version was also administered to 954 respondents who participated in the third wave of the AIDS in Multi-ethnic Neighborhoods (AMEN)3 study (Catania, Coates, Stall, et al., 1992). The AMEN study is a longitudinal study (three waves) in which the distribution of HIV, sexually transmit- ted diseases, related risk behaviors, and their correlates across social strata were examined. Respondents ranged from 20–44 years of age and included White (n = 418)

Dyadic Sexual Regulation Scale

Instructions: The following statements describe different things people do and feel about sex. Please tell me how much you agree or disagree with these statements.








Strongly agree

Strongly disagree

  1. I often take the initiative in beginning sexual activity.

  2. If my sexual relations are not satisfying there is little I can do to improve the situation.

  3. I have sexual relations with my partner as often as I would like.

  4. My planning for sexual encounters leads to good sexual experiences with my partner.

  5. I feel that it is difficult to get my partner to do what makes me feel good during sex.

  6. I feel that my sexual encounters with my partner usually end before I want them to.

  7. When I am not interested in sexual activity I feel free to reject sexual advances by my partner.

  8. I want my partner to be responsible for directing our sexual encounters.

  9. I find it pleasurable at times to be the active member during sexual relations while my partner takes a passive role.

  10. I would feel uncomfortable bringing myself to orgasm if the stimulation my partner was providing was inadequate.

  11. During some sexual encounters I find it pleasurable to be passive while my partner is the active person.

Note. Items 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 make up the brief revised form. Items 3 and 8 are reworded in the short form, as follows: 3. You have sexual relationships as often as you like. Do you agree or disagree? 8. Your sexual partner makes most of the decisions about when the two of you will have sex. Do you agree or disagree?


Catania, J. A., Coates, T., Kegeles, S., Thompson-Fullilove, M., Peterson, J., Marin, B., et al. (1992). Condom use in multi-ethnic neighborhoods of San Francisco: The population-based AMEN (AIDS in Multi- Ethnic Neighborhoods) study. American Journal of Public Health, 82,