Sexual Function Scale

Sexual Function Scale‌

MARITA P. MCCABE,Deakin University

The Sexual Function Scale (SFS) is designed to evaluate the contribution of attitudes and experiences from the family of origin, the period of adolescence, and current individual and relationship factors to a person’s sexual functioning. It may be completed by people who are sexually functional or sexually dysfunctional. For people who are sexually dysfunctional, it can be used as a clinical measure to evaluate the factors that need to be addressed in therapy.


The SFS consists of three major sections: Childhood; Puberty and Adolescence; and Current Attitudes and Behavior. There are subsections within these three sections. These are summarized in Table 1. The SFS was originally developed as a measure to evaluate the factors that are associated with sexual dysfunction in males and females. The original questions were drawn from the literature that assessed the aetiology of sexual dysfunction.

This material was used to generate a guided interview measure, with open-ended responses. This measure was used to assess the sexuality of 55 respondents with sexual dysfunction and 58 respondents who were sexually functional. The responses of these subjects allowed scales to be created for each question. Some items were removed from the scale as analyses indicated that they had no impact on their sexual functioning. The modified scales were administered to a further sample of clinical sexually dysfunctional, nonclinical sexually dysfunctional, and sexually functional respondents (McCabe, 1994a, 1994b). The results of this study allowed the scale to be reorganized and modified to produce the present measure.

Response Mode and Timing

Respondents complete the scale as a questionnaire. Some items in the scale are categorical (e.g., What type of contraception do you use?), some are yes/no responses (e.g., Did you have any unpleasant sexual experiences during adolescence?), and some are on a 5-point Likert-type scale (e.g., How often do you feel highly aroused before you have intercourse?). The questionnaire takes about 1 hour to complete.


Items are scored in the same direction, so that a total score is obtained for each subsection. Some items are categorical and so do not contribute to a total score for the subsection. Because there are different numbers of items in each subsection, the highest possible score varies from one section to another.

Reliability and Validity

Coefficient alpha have been calculated for a number of the subscales. These alphas are reported in Table 1. Some of the items in the scales tap very separate aspects of a particular construct or result in categorical responses, and so it is not appropriate to add responses or expect that respondents will answer in any consistent manner. The alphas have been calculated on a sample size of 171 cases. Of these, 82 subjects (50 females, 32 males) were sexually functional, 51 subjects (27 females, 24 males) were sexually dysfunctional and not seeking treatment, and 38 subjects (20 females, 18 males) were clinical dysfunctional. The scale was also completed by 30 sexually functional and 30 sexually dysfunctional subjects on two occasions 6 weeks apart. The test-retest reliability coefficients for each subscale are reported in Table 1. The method of scale construction has ensured some level of construct validity. The scale needs to be administered along with other psychometrically sound measures of the subscales to further demonstrate the level of construct validity of the scale.‌

Other Information

The scale, along with the scoring code, may be obtained from the author for use with clinical or research subjects.

Address correspondence to Marita P. McCabe, School of Psychology, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria, Australia 3125; e-mail: [email protected]


McCabe, M. P. (1994a). Childhood, adolescent and current psychological factors associated with sexual dysfunction. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 9, 267–276.

McCabe, M. P. (1994b). The influence of the quality of relationship on sexual dysfunction. Australian Journal of Marriage and the Family, 15, 2–8.