A new survey was released this month (6/18/18) that looked at how becoming parents might effect a couple’s sex life. This survey of 977 parents was completed by… wait for it… a mattress manufacturer. Leesa is a mattress and bedding company who published the survey on their website. A certified B Corporation, Leesa gives back in a number of ways, including this research study, which caught my attention and almost had me buying a new mattress.
While any survey data comes complete with a myriad of problems common to this type of study, there is also a wealth of information in the report. I recommend you pop over and read the whole article, but I’ll highlight a few points here.
First, a quick look at where the data came from.
Since the survey was published on the web, and not in a peer reviewed journal, a lot of pertinent information is excluded. These surveys were collected using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Service (more on that below) and the web page reports:
We focused on parents who were still living with the biological parent of their firstborn child who also lived at home and was aged 18 or younger. For parents with more than one child, we asked them to answer questions in relation to their firstborn child only. The average age of respondents was 36.4 with a standard deviation of 7.6, and the ages ranged from 19 to 78 years old. Our respondents were 42 percent male and 58 percent female.
No reports of ethnicity, education, socio-economic status, or other demographic information.
There is a lot of data presented, much of it in a neat infographic way.
Let’s start with the 50K foot view – 43% of men, and 47% of women rated the quality of their sex life lower after having kids than before (recall data). In the written report, “quality of intercourse”, “quality of their sex life”, and “quality of intimacy” seemed to be used interchangeably. Without a look at the survey itself (how the questions were asked), it’s not possible to know exactly what is being rated, but the results are still interesting.
Sexual Frequency. One of the changes identified is frequency. Based on recall data, respondents reported a 47% decrease in sexual frequency. They report sex about every 1.5 days before kids and every 3 days after. Most surveys report frequency categorized by age, but I cannot think of any large surveys that report an average sexual frequency as high as this survey. This may be due to a number of reasons (including how “sex” was defined), but is worth noting and, for me, brings into question the validity of the rest of the survey.
Sexual Desire. In addition to overall questions, surveyors also asked about sexual desire and specific behaviors. While 11% of women reported an increase in sexual desire post kids, 61% reported decreased desire. Most men (51%) reported no change but 18% reported an increase while 30% reported a decrease in desire with the advent of children.
Fitting it in. A couple sections addressed the issue of “fitting sex in”. While the kids are asleep (67%), at school (33%), getting away (26%), as well as where in the house (47% reported having sex in the shower). Most (63%) reported sex was difficult when the kids were awake and 15% reported being walked in on.
Overall, this is a fun survey with lots to discuss. A great way to help normalize common issues.
There is no complex statistical work here so nothing to critique (other than they could have ran a t-test or ANOVA to flesh out some interesting comparisons).
The real problem I have is with the sample, and it is two fold. First, they report very little about the sample. We are given filter criteria (listed above) but other than age and gender, no other demographic information is provided. Thus, we don’t know how to generalize these results to the public… What about: Minority breakdown? Socioeconomic breakdown? Any same gender parents? Etc.
Second, the sample was pulled from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk system (MTurk). If you aren’t familiar with it, NPR did a quick intro article on it a few years ago. I acknowledge it may not be worse than having college age students complete a survey as a course requirement. I also realize MTurk is an increasing source of data for research at schools like Princeton using it, and I have no issue with paying people for their information (as long as that detail is revealed). However, I do have serious issues with MTurk’s current iteration as a reliable data source. You don’t have to look far to read blogs and reports from users that cast doubt on the system (see a recent one here).
Finally, as mentioned above, a core statistic was rather high in this sample. While we aren’t given range or standard deviation, an average sexual frequency of 19 times a month equates to about every 36 hours (1.6 days) or 4.4 times per week. While within ranges, this is high compared to other surveys (see one report here where under 1/4 of married men and women met that frequency). Whenever a core statistic for what is supposed to be a “normal sample” is outside the normal ranges when compared to other similar studies, I question the validity of all other data in the survey.
So What? …
Even if I wouldn’t publish this study in a peer reviewed journal as is, Leesa has provided us with some great, fun, and useful information. I highly recommend a blog post or two from the information. Discussing some of these findings in counseling sessions with couples who struggle in similar areas may help to increase their communication around sometimes difficult topics. I suggest using this information to help normalize any struggles and to provide additional ideas (i.e., have you considered using the shower as a place to have sex?).
Let us know your thoughts and how you use it by adding a comment below.
Leesa Sleep (2018). Your Sex Life After KIds. Retrieved from https://www.leesa.com/pages/parents-and-sex