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Correlates Of Jealousy

Research has identified a number of factors associated with jealousy. Although both women and men experience jealousy, there are differences in the ways they experience and react to it. Men are more reactive to sexual involvement or threats, whereas women are more distressed by emotional involvement, loss of time and attention, and the prospect of losing a primary relationship (Buss et al. 1992; Teismann and Mosher 1978). Evolutionary psychology explains these sex differences in terms of the different adaptive problems men and women have faced. Because fertilization occurs internally within women, men have faced the problem of uncertainty in their genetic parentage of offspring. Therefore, men's jealousy is triggered by cues to sexual infidelity. Although women do not face the uncertainty of parentage, infidelity of a regular mate can be damaging. The man's time, energy, commitment, parental investment, and resources can be channeled to another woman and her children. Therefore, women's jealousy is more likely to be triggered by the possibility of the longterm diversion of such commitments as the mate's emotional involvement with another woman.

Across-cultural study conducted in the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States lends support to this explanation (Buunk et al. 1996). It found that men in all three societies tend to become more upset over a partner sharing purely sexual interest in a third person whereas women demonstrate more upset over a partner's desire for romantic and emotional involvement with another person. This doesn't mean that culture is unimportant, however. The same study found that the magnitude of sex differences clearly vary across cultures.

When it comes to reacting to jealousy, women are more likely to try to change to please their partners in order to avoid the threat of another relationship, whereas men are more likely to seek solace or retribution in alternative relationships (White and Mullen 1989). In addition, women are more likely to test a relationship by deliberately attempting to make their partners jealous (Adams 1980).

Researchers have consistently found gender-role traditionalism to be related positively to jealousy for one or both sexes. The division of labor in traditional gender roles may foster dependency and a sense of personal inadequacy. The resulting fear of facing the world alone increases jealousy. Similarly, positive associations have been found between jealousy and low self-esteem, insecurity, relationship dependency, and/or lack of alternatives for one or both sexes.

There is evidence that jealousy is negatively related to post-conventional moral reasoning among women (Mathes and Deuger 1985). This means that women who evaluate actions in terms of individual rights and abstract ethical principles are less likely to experience jealousy. In addition, males in heterosexual relationships are more sexually jealous than males in homosexual relationships (Hawkins 1990). Other findings are of interest for what they fail to show. Both romanticism and trust have been found not to be related to jealousy (Hansen 1982, 1985). These results fail to support the belief that jealousy and romantic love are intimately linked as well as the assumption that trust decreases the probability of jealousy.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsJealousy - Dual-factor Conceptualization, Types Of Jealousy, Correlates Of Jealousy, Responses To And Coping With Jealousy