Two for one

Kevin Lewis

September 11, 2014

Believe You Can and You Will: The Belief in High Self-Control Decreases Interest in Attractive Alternatives

Myrte Hamburg & Tila Pronk
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

In the present research, we examined the effects of self-control beliefs on relationship protective behavior. We hypothesized that providing participants with feedback on their level of self-control would help them shield their relationship from attractive alternatives. Study 1 showed that romantically involved participants who received positive feedback on their level of self-control showed less interest in attractive alternatives as compared to participants who did not receive self-control feedback. Study 2 replicated these results and, additionally, showed that negative feedback increased interest in alternative others for romantically involved, but not for single participants. Together, these studies showed that in the context of close relationships, providing people with self-control feedback increases their ability to exercise self-control.


Pluralistic ignorance and misperception of social norms concerning cheating in dating relationships

Susan Boon, Sarah Watkins & Rowan Sciban
Personal Relationships, September 2014, Pages 482–496

Two studies tested the hypothesis that beliefs about infidelity in dating relationships reflect pluralistic ignorance, a misperception in which people mistakenly believe that their own personal attitudes and behavior differ from others' when they do not. Consistent with pluralistic ignorance findings in other domains, undergraduates reported that the average university student (a) saw dating infidelity as more acceptable and (b) engaged in unfaithful acts more frequently than they themselves did. Neither type of infidelity (sexual, emotional, both sexual and emotional, or unspecified; Study 1, N = 176) nor motivated reasoning (i.e., defensiveness; Study 2, N = 359) moderated this pattern of results. Possible sources of misperceived norms concerning fidelity in dating relationships and the implications of such misperceptions are discussed.


What do you get when you make somebody else’s partner your own? An analysis of relationships formed via mate poaching

Joshua Foster et al.
Journal of Research in Personality, October 2014, Pages 78–90

It is well documented that many relationships form via mate poaching (i.e., stealing someone’s partner), but almost nothing is known about how these relationships function. Across three studies, we observed reliable evidence that individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied, and less invested in their relationships. They also paid more attention to romantic alternatives, perceived their alternatives to be of higher quality, and engaged in higher rates of infidelity compared to non-poached participants. Two longitudinal studies offered conflicting evidence regarding whether relationship dysfunction associated with mate poaching develops over time or is a stable quality. Evidence from a cross-sectional study suggests that individual differences in sociosexual-orientation help to explain link between mate poaching and relationship dysfunction.


Partner attractiveness moderates the relationship between number of sexual rivals and in-pair copulation frequency in humans (Homo sapiens)

Michael Pham et al.
Journal of Comparative Psychology, August 2014, Pages 328-331

Nonhuman males attend to the number of potential sexual rivals in the local environment to assess sperm competition risk. Males of these species sometimes perform more frequent in-pair copulations to increase the likelihood of success in sperm competition. Here, we extend this research to humans, Homo sapiens. We secured self-report data from 393 men in a committed, sexual, heterosexual relationship. The results indicate that men whose in-pair partner has more male coworkers and friends (i.e., potential sexual rivals) also perform more frequent in-pair copulations, but only among men who perceive their partner to be particularly attractive relative to assessments of partners by other men in the sample. This research is the first to empirically investigate the number of potential male rivals in the local environment as a cue to sperm competition risk in humans. Discussion addresses limitations of the current research and highlights directions for future research.


A Randomized Controlled Trial of Relationship Education in the U.S. Army: 2-Year Outcomes

Scott Stanley et al.
Family Relations, October 2014, Pages 482–495

This study examined the effectiveness of an evidence-based, community-delivered adaptation of couple relationship education (CRE) program (specifically, The Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program [PREP]) delivered at two Army installations. The study is a randomized controlled trial with 2 years of follow-up examining marital quality and stability. Sample composition was 662 married couples with a spouse in the U.S. Army. Analyses yielded no evidence of overall enduring intervention effects on relationship quality, but couples assigned to intervention at the higher risk site were significantly less likely than controls to be divorced at the 2-year follow-up (8.1% vs. 14.9%, p < .01). This effect was moderated by ethnic minority status. Specifically, the impact of the intervention on divorce was strongest for minority couples. The findings add to the literature on who may benefit most from CRE.


A Social Network Comparison of Low-Income Black and White Newlywed Couples

Grace Jackson et al.
Journal of Marriage and Family, October 2014, Pages 967–982

Relative to White families, Black families have been described as relying on extended social networks to compensate for other social and economic disadvantages. The presence or absence of supportive social networks should be especially relevant to young couples entering marriage, but to date there has been little effort to describe the social networks of comparable Black and White newlyweds. The current study addressed this gap by drawing on interviews with 57 first-married newlyweds from low-income communities to compare the composition and structure of Black and White couples' duocentric social networks. The results indicated that low-income Black couples entered marriage at a social disadvantage relative to White couples, with more family relationships but fewer positive relationships and fewer sources of emotional support (for wives), fewer connections to married individuals, and fewer shared relationships between spouses. Black couples' relative social disadvantages persisted even when various economic and demographic variables were controlled.


The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and Trends in Marital Dissolution

Christine Schwartz & Hongyun Han
American Sociological Review, August 2014, Pages 605-629

The reversal of the gender gap in education has potentially far-reaching consequences for marriage markets, family formation, and relationship outcomes. One possible consequence is the growing number of marriages in which wives have more education than their husbands. Past research shows that this type of union is at higher risk of dissolution. Using data on marriages formed between 1950 and 2004 in the United States, we evaluate whether this association has persisted as the prevalence of this relationship type has increased. Our results show a large shift in the association between spouses’ relative education and marital dissolution. Specifically, marriages in which wives have the educational advantage were once more likely to dissolve, but this association has disappeared in more recent marriage cohorts. Another key finding is that the relative stability of marriages between educational equals has increased. These results are consistent with a shift away from rigid gender specialization toward more flexible, egalitarian partnerships, and they provide an important counterpoint to claims that progress toward gender equality in heterosexual relationships has stalled.


Does the European Marriage Pattern Explain Economic Growth?

Tracy Dennison & Sheilagh Ogilvie
Journal of Economic History, September 2014, Pages 651-693

This article scrutinizes the recently postulated link between the European Marriage Pattern (EMP) and economic success. Multivariate analysis of 4,705 demographic observations, covering women's marriage age, female lifetime celibacy, and household complexity in 39 European countries, shows that the most extreme manifestations of the EMP were associated with economic stagnation rather than growth. There is no evidence that the EMP improved economic performance by empowering women, increasing human capital investment, adjusting population to economic trends, or sustaining beneficial cultural norms. European economic success was not caused by the EMP and its sources must therefore be sought in other factors.


Effect of Abortion vs. Carrying to Term on a Woman's Relationship with the Man Involved in the Pregnancy

Jane Mauldon, Diana Greene Foster & Sarah Roberts
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, forthcoming

Context: When a woman who seeks an abortion cannot obtain one, having a child may reshape her relationship with the man involved in the pregnancy. No research has compared how relationship trajectories are affected by different outcomes of an unwanted pregnancy.

Methods: Data from the Turnaway Study, a prospective longitudinal study of women who sought abortion in 2008–2010 at one of 30 U.S. facilities, are used to assess relationships over two years among 862 women who had abortions or were denied them because they had passed the facility's gestational age limit. Mixed-effects models analyze effects of abortion or birth on women's relationships with the men involved.

Results: At conception, most women (80%) were in romantic relationships with the men involved. One week after seeking abortion, 61% were; two years later, 37% were. Compared with women who obtained an abortion near the facility's gestational age limit, women who gave birth had greater odds of having ongoing contact with the man (odds ratio at two years, 1.7). The odds of romantic involvement at two years did not differ by group; however, the decline in romantic involvement was initially slower among those giving birth. Relationship quality did not differ between groups.

Conclusions: Giving birth temporarily prolonged romantic relationships of women in this study; most romantic relationships ended soon, whether or not the woman had an abortion. However, giving birth increased the odds of nonromantic contact between women and the men involved throughout the ensuing two years.


Can’t We Just Live Together? New Evidence on the Effect of Relationship Status on Health

Jennifer Kohn & Susan Averett
Journal of Family and Economic Issues, September 2014, Pages 295-312

There has been a large empirical literature on the effect of marriage on health, but scant empirical evidence on the effect of cohabitation on health, although cohabitation is increasingly common. We contributed to this literature in three ways. First we explicitly modeled cohabitation distinct from marriage. Second, we included lagged health in our models to address the dynamic process of health and health-related selection into relationships. Extant literature has failed to control for lagged health risking omitted variable bias. Rather, it has controlled for general unobservable heterogeneity using fixed effects models that have relied on limited variation in relationship status over time to identify the effect of relationship status on health. Third, we employed a continuous health index that aids in estimation and inference of dynamic models. Using the Blundell and Bond dynamic panel data estimator and 18 years of the British Household Panel Survey of nearly 18,000 adults, we found that being in a relationship is good for health, but the benefits are not unique to marriage. Our finding that cohabitation is as beneficial as marriage for health was good news for health policy as changing social norms and economic instability have delayed or impaired family formation.


The cost of forgiveness: Observers prefer victims who leave unfaithful romantic partners

Heather Smith et al.
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Ninety-six male fraternity members (Study 1), 112 female voters (Study 2), and 219 undergraduates (Study 3) read scenarios in which a group representative forgave, retaliated, or left a romantic partner after the partner's sexual infidelity was publically revealed. Observers rated a victim who forgave his or her partner to be as mature as a victim who ended the relationship, but also as weaker and less competent. They rated a victim who forgave to be more mature but almost as weak and incompetent as a victim who retaliated. Symbolic concerns that the victim's behavior violated shared values (all three studies) or damaged the group's power/status (Study 3) mediated the relationship between victim behavior and victim ratings. These data demonstrate how the symbolic concerns that shape observers' judgments of an offender can extend to observers' judgments of the victim.


Coping with mate poaching: Gender differences in detection of infidelity-related threats

Tsachi Ein-Dor et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

People often aspire for true love and committed romantic relationships. These relationships, however, are recurrently threatened by partner infidelity. The present research tested a new infidelity-detection model, the rivalry sensitivity hypothesis, that posits that women are more sensitive to cues of infidelity than men are, and tend to focus their attention on potential rivals in their mate’s vicinity, whereas men show increased sensitivity of their own partners. In a series of four studies, we found that women displayed greater alertness to cues of potential partner unfaithfulness than did men, were quicker and more accurate in detecting cues of infidelity, but were not better than men in detecting other threats. Women also focused their attention on potential rivals (other women), whereas men’s attention was specifically directed at monitoring their own partner’s intents. These findings suggest that women and men have developed different strategies aimed at achieving a similar outcome – mate retention.


Daily interpersonal coping strategies: Implications for self-reported well-being and cortisol

Kira Birditt, Michael Nevitt & David Almeida
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming

An important pathway by which relationships influence health may involve how people cope with interpersonal tensions. This study examined whether same day and previous day avoidance and engagement in arguments are differentially associated with self-reported well-being (emotional and physical) and diurnal cortisol patterns. Participants from Wave 2 of the National Study of Daily Experiences (N = 1,512; aged 33–84, 57% women) completed daily phone interviews for eight consecutive days and provided useable saliva samples that were assayed for cortisol for four of those days at specific times: waking, 30 min after waking, before lunch, and at bedtime. Multilevel models revealed same day arguments were associated with lower well-being (higher negative affect and lower positive affect) than same day avoidance or no tension. In contrast, previous day avoidance was associated with lower next day well-being (higher negative affect and more physical symptoms) and higher next day cortisol than having no interpersonal tension the previous day. Arguments have greater same day consequences for well-being, whereas avoided arguments have greater next day consequences, which may indicate delayed effects of avoidance.


Thou Shalt Not Covet Another Man? Exploring Constructions of Same-Sex and Different-Sex Infidelity Using Story Completion

Victoria Clarke, Virginia Braun & Kate Wooles
Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

This study explores conceptualisations of same- versus different-sex infidelity in the context of a heterosexual marriage using story completion. A convenience sample of 57 female and male participants completed one of four versions of a story stem featuring a husband who is either emotionally or sexually unfaithful with a woman or a man. A social constructionist thematic analysis found that same-sex infidelity was conceptualised as the ‘worst case scenario’ and was underpinned by a heteronormative framing of repressed homosexuality. By contrast, heterosexual infidelity was understood in terms of relational deficits and the wife assuming responsibility for these. Overall, the analysis shows that in making sense of same-sex and heterosexual infidelity, the participants drew on familiar discourses of sexuality and gender, suggesting that despite social psychological theorising related to sexual fluidity, essentialist ideas remain firmly in place. Methodologically, the study demonstrates the usefulness of a rarely used tool — the story completion task — for accessing socio-cultural discourses and dominant meanings surrounding a particular topic.


Couples’ Marijuana Use Is Inversely Related to Their Intimate Partner Violence Over the First 9 Years of Marriage

Philip Smith et al.
Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, forthcoming

Research on the association between marijuana use and intimate partner violence (IPV) has generated inconsistent findings, and has been primarily based on cross-sectional data. We examined whether husbands’ and wives’ marijuana use predicted both husbands’ and wives’ IPV perpetration over the first 9 years of marriage (Wave 1, n = 634 couples). We also examined moderation by antisocial behavior, the spouse’s marijuana use, and whether IPV was reported during the year before marriage. These predictive associations were calculated using a time-lagged multivariate generalized multilevel model, simultaneously estimating predictors of husband and wife IPV. In fully adjusted models, we found that more frequent marijuana use by husbands and wives predicted less frequent IPV perpetration by husbands. Husbands’ marijuana use also predicted less frequent IPV perpetration by wives. Moderation analyses demonstrated that couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV perpetration. There was a significant positive association between wives’ marijuana use and wives’ IPV perpetration, but only among wives who had already reported IPV perpetration during the year before marriage. These findings suggest there may be an overall inverse association between marijuana use and IPV perpetration in newly married couples, although use may be associated with greater risk of perpetration among women with a history of IPV perpetration.


The Impact of Premarital Cycling on Early Marriage

Amber Vennum & Matthew Johnson
Family Relations, October 2014, Pages 439–452

Using a sample of 564 newlywed couples and the enduring dynamics model of marriage, the study examined the impact of premarital cycling (breaking up and renewing) on the entrance into marriage and relationship dynamics over the first 5 years. Consistent with the enduring dynamics model, results demonstrated cyclical couples (compared to noncyclical couples) exhibited worse adjustment on a variety of relationship indicators at the entrance to marriage and were more likely to experience a trial separation over the first 5 years. Dyadic parallel process growth curve analysis further revealed that premarital cycling predicted lower initial relationship satisfaction that was sustained over the first 5 years of marriage. Implications for theory, research, and intervention with premarital couples are discussed. These results provide evidence that courtships characterized by breakups and renewals represent a relational vulnerability with negative implications extending years into the future.


The Object of Desire: How Being Objectified Creates Sexual Pressure for Women in Heterosexual Relationships

Laura Ramsey & Tiffany Hoyt
Psychology of Women Quarterly, forthcoming

Although the objectification of women is widespread, there is relatively little research on objectification in romantic relationships. The purpose of our research was to explore how partner-objectification might be related to sexual pressure and coercion in heterosexual relationships. Two studies were conducted, one with heterosexual men and one with heterosexual women as participants. An online survey of 119 heterosexual men in the United States demonstrated that men who frequently survey their partners’ bodies are more likely to sexually pressure and coerce their partners — primarily because partner-surveillance is related to feelings of shame regarding one’s partner’s body, which in turn is related to increased sexual pressure and coercion. An online survey of 162 heterosexual women in the United States demonstrated feeling objectified by a partner is related to several (but not all) measures of sexual pressure and coercion. Furthermore, women who felt that their partners frequently surveyed their bodies were more likely to experience self-surveillance, which in turn predicted increased body shame and lowered sexual agency. Our research can inform interventions aimed at reducing sexual coercion and spark future research on the distinction between physical attraction and objectification in the context of romantic relationships.


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