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Synopsis of the Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory

Derogatis, Leonard R.

Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory (DSFI)

Clinical Psychometric Research Inc.
1228 Wine Spring Lane, Towson, MD 21204

Instrument Development
	Year Developed:  1975, 1978
	Primary Measurement Constructs:  The DSFI measures constructs believed to be 
fundamental to successful sexual functioning (e.g. drive, body image, sexual satisfaction) and in 
addition, measures several basic indicators of general well-being (e.g. affects balance and 
psychological distress).

The Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory (DSFI) is an "omnibus" self-report inventory 
designed to measure the quality of the current sexual functioning of an individual.  The DSFI is 
multidimensional in nature because of the comprehensive study of sexual functioning has 
revealed it to be a highly multidetermined behavior.  Although apparently straightforward, 
successful human sexual functioning rests on a complex interplay of endocrine, emotional, 
cognitive and experiential factors, that precludes the simple enumeration of sexual episodes, or 
orgasms as a meaningful form of measuring quality of sexual functioning.

The individual respondent is the basis for evaluation by the DSFI in part because it  represents 
the most parsimonious and straightforward unit to work with, and also because regardless of 
context, quality of  sexual functioning is ultimately appreciated by the individual.  Current 
sexual functioning is the conceptual continuum for the DSFI because it comes closest to the 
central evaluative question in the clinical assessment of sexual disorder:  "What is the current 
level and nature of the patient's sexual functioning."  By quantifying the principal dimensions of 
the patient's sexual experience in profile form, an insight is gained into both the nature and 
magnitude of the individual's sexual dysfunction.

The DSFI is comprised of 10 substantive dimensions that are judged to reflect the principal 
components of sexual behavior.  The conceptual basis for the  DSFI was outlined by Derogatis in 
1976, and several subsequent monographs have been published on the instrument (Derogatis, 
1980;  Derogatis & Melisaratos, 1979).  Of the 10 subtests constituting the DSFI, two of them, 
Psychological Symptoms and Affects are themselves complete, multidimensional tests.  The 
Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI)  (Derogatis, 1993) and the Derogatis Affects Balance Scale (ABS) 
 (Derogatis, 1975; Derogatis & Rutigliano, 1996) provide measurement of psychological distress 
and mood and affects, respectively.

Since its introduction in the mid-1970's, the DSFI has been utilized as an outcome measure in 
approximately 50 empirical studies of sexual functioning  (see Bibliography).  In most instances, 
dimension or global score measures from the instrument have proven sufficiently sensitive to 
discriminate differences in the groups under study.  Discriminations have ranged from relatively 
large effect sizes (e.g. comparisons of gender dysphoric patients with normal heterosexuals) to 
much more demanding discriminations (e.g. sexual functioning in diabetic vs normal women, 
inflatable vs non-inflatable prostheses in penile implant surgery).

DSFI Dimension & Global Score Descriptions

	Information - Consists of a 26 item subtest in true-false format which measures the level 
of accurate information possessed by the respondent concerning the physiology, anatomy and 
other aspects of sexual functioning.  A single information score is determined as the sum of the 
number of correct responses.

	Experiences - Is measured via a list of 24 sexual behaviors ranging from very 
fundamental behaviors to various forms of sexual intercourse and oral-genital activities.  The 
respondent indicates which behaviors he/she has experience lifetime, and which experiences 
have occurred during the past 60 days.  The Experiences score is the sum of lifetime 

	Drive - Is reflected in a composite summary measure of libidinal erotic interests 
expressed in the 5 behavioral domains of sexual intercourse, masturbation, kissing and petting, 
sexual fantasy and ideal frequency of intercourse.  The respondent indicates the frequencies of 
these behaviors during the current period.  A single Drive score is developed by summing across 

	Attitudes - Based upon work showing liberal and conservative sexual attitudes to be 
predictive of  quality of sexual functioning, this subtlest is comprised of 30 items (15 liberal 
items and 15 conservative items) represented on 5-point Likert scales.  The respondent indicates 
the degree to which he/she is in agreement with each item.  Liberal, Conservative and Total 
Attitude scores are generated.

	Psychological Symptoms - Psychological distress is measures by the 53 items of the Brief 
Symptom Inventory (BSI).  Each symptom of the BSI is represented on a 5-point scale from "not 
at all" (0) to "extremely" (4).  Scores are summed across items to achieve a single Symptoms 
score.  The BSI may optionally be scored for the 9 dimensions (e.g. Depression, Anxiety) and 
Global Scores that underlie the items of the BSI.

	Affects - Is also a complete multidimensional test termed the Derogatis Affects Balance 
Scale (DABS).  The DABS measures affect and mood through 40 adjective items endorsed by 
the respondent.  Twenty items represent positive affects and 20 items reflect negative affects.  
Scores include a Positive Affects Total, a Negative Affects Total and the overall Affects Balance 
Index.  The latter is used as the affects measure for the DSFI.

	Gender Role Definition - Consistent with the concept that masculinity and femininity are 
components of  all individuals' gender role definitions, the two primary components of gender 
role are each measured in terms of 15 adjective items which the respondent endorses in varying 
degrees.  A Masculinity score, Femininity score and Gender Role Definition score are 

	Fantasy - This subtlest consists of 20 major sexual themes that have been culled from 
research on normal sexual fantasies as well as fantasies arising from clinical variations on 
routine sexual behaviors.  The Fantasy score consists of a simple summation of the items 

	Body Image - Body image has been demonstrated to be an integral aspect of self-concept, 
and as such, is an important determinant of successful sexual functioning.   It is measured  in the 
DSFI in terms of 15 items, 10 common and 5 gender-keyed, that reflect the individual's level of  
appreciation of his/her body.  A single Body Image score is developed.

	Sexual Satisfaction - Is itself multidimensional in nature, being comprised of a number of 
distinct components (e.g. frequency of intercourse, quality of communication, quality of orgasm, 
etc.).  Ten true-false items comprise the Satisfaction subtlest, each reflecting whether or not the 
respondent is satisfied with that specific aspect of his/her sexual functioning.  A single 
Satisfaction score is calculated as a sum of endorsements indicating satisfaction with a particular 

	SFI:  The DSFI Total Score - The Sexual Functioning Index (SFI) is the Total or Global 
Summary Score of the DSFI.  It is calculated as a direct unweighted linear combination of the 10 
subtest or principal dimension scores.  Since subtlest scores are calculated along very different 
score continua and some are gender-keyed (i.e., distinct for men and women), subtest scores are 
first transformed to area T-scores ( = 50; SD = 10) before being summed to achieve the SFI.  
Since the transformation is a normalizing, area (under the curve) type, the actuarial 
characteristics of the resulting standardized distribution are retained.

	GSSI:  The Global Sexual Satisfaction Index - The GSSI is the second global measure of 
the DSFI, and quite different in nature from the SFI or DSFI total score.  While the DSFI Total  
Score reveals the respondent's quality of sexual functioning in psychometric terms, the GSSI 
reflects the individual's subjective perception of his/her sexual behavior.  The GSSI represents 
quality of sexual functioning on a 9-point scale anchored at the lower extreme by (0), "could not 
be worse" to (8), "could not be better" at the upper limit.  Each scale point is characterized by a 
descriptive phrase and the respondent is provided an opportunity to globally summarize his/her 
perception of the quality of sexual behavior in straightforward terms.

Normative Population
Norms for the DSFI were developed based on a sample of 230 individuals in attendance at 
university continuing education classes.  The majority of the sample were white (80%) and 
middle-aged, (X ? 32)  with  some college education.  Approximately  60% of the sample were 
married at the time of  assessment, with the majority  (75%) coming from middle class and 
upper middle class background.

Instrument Type
Clinical/Research Self-Report Inventory

Languages Available
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, French Canadian, Indian, Korean, Norwegian, Spanish and 

Item Format
The DSFI is composed of 254 items, arranged into 10 subtests.  Formats vary from simple 
endorsements of "yes" - "no", to multiple point Likert scales.

Published studies by both the author of the scale and numerous other investigators suggest the 
DSFI is highly reliable and is a valid measure of the construct of sexual functioning.  Derogatis 
& Melisaratos (1979) report internal consistency reliability coefficients based on an N of 325 
between .60 and .97, and test-retest coefficiencies across a 14-day interval ranging 
predominantly from the high .70's to the low .90's.   Howell, Reynolds, Thase, et al (1987) also 
reported test-retest coefficients over a 14-day period and all coefficients were ? .70.  Over four 
dozen published studies currently exist using the DSFI as a measure of functional discrimination 
and outcomes in a broad variety of medical treatment populations (see Bibliography).  The 
majority show the DSFI to be highly sensitive to naturally occurring and disease-induced 
interference with sexual functioning, as well as positive treatment effects.

How to Obtain
The DSFI is distributed exclusively by Clinical Psychometric Research Inc., 1228 Wine Spring 
Lane,  Towson, MD  21204.  Phone 1-800-245-0277; 1-410-321-6165; FAX  1-410-321-6341.

Copyright Owner
Leonard R. Derogatis, Ph.D.

Principal Citations

Derogatis, L.R. (1975).  Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory (DSFI): Preliminary Scoring 
Manual.  Baltimore, MD.  Clinical Psychometric Research.

Derogatis, L.R. & Mellisaratos, N. (1979). The DSFI:  A Multidimensional Measure of Sexual 
Functioning.  J. of Sex & Marital Therapy, 5, 244-281.

Derogatis, L.R., Lopez, M.C. & Zinzeletta, E.M. (1988). Clinical Applications of the DSFI in the 
Assessment of Sexual Dysfunctions.  In R. Brown &  E. Roberts (Eds.),  Advances in the 
Understanding and Treatment of Sexual Disorders, New York, PNA Publishing.

Conte, H.R. (1989).  Development and Use of Self-Report Techniques for Assessing  Sexual 
Function:  A Review and Critique.  Archives of  Sexual Behavior, 12, 555-576.

Derogatis, L.R., Schmidt, C.W., Fagan, P.J. & Wise, T.N. (1989).  Subtypes of Anorgasmia Via 
Mathematical Taxonomy.  Psychosomatics, 30, 166-173.
1228 Wine Spring Lane, Towson, MD 21204, USA Phone: 1-800-245-0277 Fax: 1-410-321-6341
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