, Volume 7, Issue 8, pp 821-835

Loving and leaving: Sex differences in romantic attachments

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We propose a two-part generalization about sex differences in entering into and giving up romantic attachments: (1) Men tend to fall in love more readily than women; (2) women tend to fall out of love more readily than men. Evidence in support of these generalizations is derived from a longitudinal study of 231 college student dating couples. The data suggest that women are more cautious than men about entering into romantic relationships, more likely to compare these relationships to alternatives, more likely to end a relationship that seems ill fated, and better able to cope with rejection. We consider several possible explanations of these sex differences from the standpoints of psychoanalytic theory, the social and economic context of mate selection, and the socialization of men and women in the management of their own emotions. To evaluate these (and any other) explanations, further research might profitably investigate whether and to what degree these sex differences are found in other segments of the population.

This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant GS-27422 to Zick Rubin. The authors are grateful to Claire Engers, Sherry Ward, and Susan Willard for their contribution to this research and to Jessie Bernard, Nancy Chodorow, George W. Goethals, Paul Rosenblatt, Ann Swidler, and Shelley Taylor for their helpful comments.