Commitment issues

Kevin Lewis

March 07, 2017

Attractiveness and relationship longevity: Beauty is not what it is cracked up to be

Christine Ma-Kellams, Margaret Wang & Hannah Cardiel

Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Across four studies, we examined the relational repercussions of physical attractiveness (PA). Study 1 (n = 238) found that those rated as more attractive in high school yearbooks were married for shorter durations and more likely to divorce. Study 2 (n = 130) replicated these effects using a different sample (high-profile celebrities). Study 3 (n = 134) examined the link between PA and the derogation of attractive alternatives, a relationship maintenance strategy. Study 4 (n = 156) experimentally manipulated perceived PA and examined its relation with both derogation of attractive alternatives and current relationship satisfaction. PA predicted likelihood of relationship dissolution and decreased derogation of attractive alternatives. Furthermore, PA predicted greater vulnerability to relationship threats — in this case, relationship alternatives — resulting from poor relationship satisfaction.


Men’s Perceived Partner Commitment and Mate Guarding: The Moderating Role of Partner’s Hormonal Contraceptive Use

Juliana French, Andrea Meltzer & Jon Maner

Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, forthcoming

Male jealousy is an adaptive interpersonal process that functions to maintain relationships by reducing the likelihood of partner sexual infidelity. Ancestral men would have been most reproductively successful to the extent that they responded to signs of low partner commitment with increased jealousy and mate guarding. The current research showed that, indeed, newlywed husbands who perceived relatively low commitment in their new wives displayed relatively high levels of mate guarding. However, this relationship was moderated by wives’ use of hormonal contraceptives (HCs). HCs can unconsciously reduce women’s sexual signaling behaviors and, therefore, may eliminate the extra-pair sexual signaling likely to promote male mate guarding. Consistent with predictions, among husbands with wives not using HCs, relatively low levels of perceived partner commitment were associated with relatively high levels of husbands’ mate guarding. Among husbands with wives using HCs, in contrast, husbands’ perceived partner commitment was unassociated with husbands’ mate guarding. This finding joins others in suggesting that the use of HCs, often used in the context of long-term committed relationships, can unknowingly interrupt evolved relationship processes.


The Intergenerational Transmission of Union Instability in Early Adulthood

Paul Amato & Sarah Patterson

Journal of Marriage and Family, forthcoming

Research on the intergenerational transmission of divorce should be expanded to incorporate disrupted nonmarital cohabitations. This study (a) examined the transmission of union instability from parents to offspring using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, (b) replaced binary variables (divorced vs. nondivorced) typically used in this literature with count variables (number of disrupted unions), (c) relied on independent sources for data on parents' and offspring's union disruptions to minimize same-source bias, (d) assessed the mediating role of theoretically derived variables (many not previously considered in this literature), and (e) incorporated information on discord in intact parental unions. Parent and offspring union disruptions were positively linked, with each parental disruption associated with a 16% increase in the number of offspring disruptions, net of controls. The mediators collectively accounted for 44% of the estimated intergenerational effect. Parent discord in intact unions was associated with more offspring disruptions.


Integrating molecular genetics and evolutionary psychology: Sexual jealousy and the androgen receptor (AR) gene

David Lewis et al.

Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

Integrating evolutionary psychological and molecular genetic research may increase our knowledge of the psychological correlates of specific genes, as well as enhance evolutionary psychology's ability to explain individual differences. We tested the hypothesis that men's sexual jealousy mechanisms functionally calibrate their psychological output according to genetic variation at the androgen receptor locus. Mated men (N = 103) provided buccal cell samples for genotype fragment analysis and completed inventories assessing their sexually jealous cognitions and emotions. Results indicated that men with longer sequences of CAG codon repeats at the androgen receptor locus were more likely to perceive ambiguous social and environmental cues as indicative of their mates' infidelity, and experienced greater emotional upset in response to these cues. These results contribute to a growing body of research linking polymorphism at the AR locus to individual differences in psychology, and, to our knowledge, provide the first evidence pointing toward the heritability of sexual jealousy. Our discussion centers on whether the heritability of psychological differences implies direct genetic influences on the neurobiological substrate, or reflects functionally calibrated output from sex-typical and species-typical mechanisms. We conclude by describing how future research can more clearly differentiate between these alternative genetic models.


For Better or for Worse? Gender Ideology, Religious Commitment, and Relationship Quality

Samuel Perry & Andrew Whitehead

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

Few studies have considered how religion moderates the ways gender ideology influences heterosexual relationship outcomes. Drawing on a national random sample of American adults who report being married or living as married, we focus on the extent to which religious commitment moderates the link between gender ideology and reported relationship satisfaction, and whether this moderating effect varies across gender. We find that gender traditionalism is negatively associated with relationship satisfaction; however, interaction effects reveal that religious commitment moderates the effects of gender ideology such that the negative effects of gender traditionalism on relationship satisfaction only apply to people who are less religious. Gender traditionalism, by contrast, is not negatively related to relationship satisfaction for the highly religious. Splitting the sample by gender reveals that this moderating relationship is significant for women only. Thus, while gender traditionalism is negatively related to relationship satisfaction in the main, this effect is contingent on both gender and religious commitment. Religious commitment appears to mitigate negative effects of gender traditionalism on relationship outcomes, particularly for American women.


Trajectories of relationship supportiveness after childbirth: Does marriage matter?

Marcia Carlson & Alicia VanOrman

Social Science Research, forthcoming

Relationship quality for married couples typically declines after the birth of a (first) child, as parenthood brings new identities, stresses, and responsibilities for mothers and fathers. Yet, it is less clear whether nonmarital relationship quality follows a similar trajectory, particularly given the greater selectivity of nonmarital relationships that persist over time. This paper uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 3459) with latent growth curve models to examine relationship quality (measured by mothers' perceived supportiveness about fathers) for married and unmarried couples over nine years after a child's birth. Findings suggest that marriage at birth is protective for relationship supportiveness over time, net of various individual characteristics associated with marriage, compared to all unmarried couples at birth; however, marriage does not differentiate supportiveness compared to the subset of unmarried couples who remain stably together. Also, unmarried couples who get married after the birth have more supportive relationships compared to all unmarried couples who do not marry — though less so when compared to couples who remain stably together.


A tale of two decades: Relative intra-family earning capacity and changes in family welfare over time

Julie Hotchkiss et al.

Review of Economics of the Household, forthcoming

The purpose of this paper is to assess the impact of economic changes in the 1990s and 2000s on the welfare of married households, taking into account the relative earnings structure of husband and wife. Modeling the household members’ joint labor supply, we find that families in which the wife is the higher wage earner experienced as much welfare gain in the 1990s and significantly higher welfare gains in the 2000s as families in which the husband is the higher wage earner.


The Risk for Marital Infidelity Across a Year-Long Deployment

Christina Balderrama-Durbin et al.

Journal of Family Psychology, forthcoming

Military deployment can create significant relationship strain. Although most couples navigate the challenges of deployment successfully, this period may render some couples more vulnerable to adverse relationship outcomes such as infidelity due to a convergence of factors including geographic separation and reduced emotional and physical intimacy. Despite anecdotal reports of increased rates of infidelity during deployment, empirical findings are lacking. This study used a prospective design to examine the prevalence and risk factors of infidelity across the deployment cycle including a year-long deployment to Iraq. A total of 63 married male Airmen were assessed both pre- and 6–9 months postdeployment. The rate of sexual infidelity prior to deployment (21%) was commensurate with the lifetime rate of sexual involvement outside the marriage in representative community samples of men. Across the deployment period, the prevalence of sexual infidelity was strikingly high (22.6%) compared with annual community estimates (1.5–4%; Allen et al., 2005). Findings demonstrated that service members with a prior history of separation, steps toward divorce, and relationship distress prior to deployment had elevated risk for infidelity over the deployment cycle. Moreover, roughly 75% of Airmen who experienced infidelity over the deployment cycle divorced by 6–9 months postdeployment whereas only 5% of service members without infidelity divorced during this same time period. Considering well-documented adverse impacts of infidelity and divorce, the current findings may assist in identifying military couples at risk for infidelity and informing targeted prevention or early intervention strategies for these couples prior to or immediately following deployment.


Behavioral Reactions to Emotional and Sexual Infidelity: Mate Abandonment Versus Mate Retention

Murray Millar & Alyson Baker

Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, forthcoming

This study tested the hypothesis that for men, sexual infidelity will be more associated with mate abandonment behaviors and emotional infidelity will be more associated with mate retention behaviors, and for women the pattern would reverse. Furthermore, we proposed that these effects would be caused by changes in the perceived mate value of the unfaithful partner. To test these hypotheses, male and female participants read a scenario that describes either an emotional or a sexual infidelity and indicated their likely response to the infidelity described in the scenario. As predicted, both men and women showed the expected asymmetrical behavioral choices in response to sexual and emotional infidelity with changes in the perceived mate value of the unfaithful partner acting as a mediator.


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