Human Nature

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 283–300 | Cite as

Romantic jealousy in early adulthood and in later life

  • Todd K. ShackelfordEmail author
  • Martin Voracek
  • David P. Schmitt
  • David M. Buss
  • Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford
  • Richard L. Michalski


Young men are more distressed by a partner’s sexual infidelity, whereas young women are more distressed by a partner’s emotional infidelity. The present research investigated (a) whether the sex difference in jealousy replicates in an older sample, and (b) whether younger people differ from older people in their selection of the more distressing infidelity scenario. We presented forced-choice dilemmas to 202 older people (mean age = 67 years) and to 234 younger people (mean age = 20 years). The sex difference replicated in the older sample. In addition, older women were less likely than younger women to select a partner’s emotional infidelity as more distressing than a partner’s sexual infidelity. Discussion offers directions for future work on sex differences and age differences in jealousy.

Key words

Age differences Evolutionary psychology Romantic jealousy Sex differences 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bringle, R. G., and B. P. Buunk 1991 Extradyadic Relationships and Sexual Jealousy. In Sexuality in Close Relationships, K. McKinney and S. Sprecher, eds. Pp. 135–153. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  2. Buss, D. M. 2000 The Dangerous Passion. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  3. 2004 The Evolution of Desire, revised ed. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Buss, D. M., R. J. Larsen, D. Westen, and J. Semmelroth 1992 Sex Differences in Jealousy: Evolution, Physiology, and Psychology. Psychological Science 3:251–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buss, D. M., and T. K. Shackelford 1997 From Vigilance to Violence: Mate Retention Tactics in Married Couples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72:346–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buss, D. M., Shackelford, T. K., L. A. Kirkpatrick, J. Choe, K. L. Hang, M. Hasegawa, T. Hasegawa, and K. Bennett 1999 Jealousy and the Nature of Beliefs about Infidelity: Tests of Competing Hypotheses about Sex Differences in the United States, Korea, and Japan. Personal Relationships 6:125–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buss, D. M., T. K. Shackelford, J. Choe, B. P. Buunk, and P. Dijkstra 2000 Distress about Mating Rivals. Personal Relationships 7:235–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, J. 1988 Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, second ed. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  9. Daly, M., and M. Wilson 1988 Homicide. Hawthorne, New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  10. Daly, M., M. Wilson, and S. J. Weghorst 1982 Male Sexual Jealousy. Ethology and Sociobiology 3:11–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DeSteno, D. A., M. Y. Bartlett, J. Braverman, and P. Salovey 2002 Sex Differences in Jealousy: Evolutionary Mechanism or Artifact of Measurement? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 83:1103–1116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dijkstra, P., H. A. K. Groothof, G. A. Poel, T. T. G. Laverman, M. Schrier, and B. P. Buunk 2001 Sex Differences in the Events That Elicit Jealousy among Homosexuals. Personal Relationships 8:41–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Euler, H. A., and B. Weitzel 1996 Discriminative Grandparental Solicitude as Reproductive Strategy. Human Nature 7:39–59.Google Scholar
  14. Fleiss, J. L. 1994 Measures of Effect Size for Categorical Data. In The Handbook of Research Synthesis, H. Cooper and L. V. Hedges, eds. Pp. 245–260. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  15. Flinn, M. 1988 Mate Guarding in a Caribbean Village. Ethology and Sociobiology 9:1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forsberg, A. J. L., and B. S. Tullberg 1995 The Relationship between Cumulative Number of Cohabiting Partners and Number of Children for Men and Women in Modern Sweden. Ethology and Sociobiology 16:221–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gaulin, S. J. C., I. Silverman, K. Phillips, and C. Reiber 1997 Activational Hormonal Influences on Abilities and Attitudes: Implications for Evolutionary Theory. Evolution and Cognition 3:191–199Google Scholar
  18. Geary, D. C. 1998 Male, Female. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  19. Geary, D. C., M. C. DeSoto, M. K. Hoard, M. S. Sheldon, and M. L. Cooper 2001 Estrogens and Relationship Jealousy. Human Nature 12:299–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Geary, D. C., M. Rumsey, C. C. Bow-Thomas, and M. K. Hoard 1995 Sexual Jealousy as a Facultative Trait: Evidence from the Pattern of Sex Differences in Adults from China and the United States. Ethology and Sociobiology 16:255–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harris, C. R. 2000 Psychophysiological Responses to Imagined Infidelity: The Specific Innate Modular View of Jealousy Reconsidered. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78:1082–1091.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 2002 Sexual and Romantic Jealousy in Heterosexual and Homosexual Adults. Psychological Science 13:7–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 2003 The Evolution of Jealousy. American Scientist 92:62–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hasselblad, V., and L. V. Hedges 1995 Meta-analysis of Screening and Diagnostic Tests. Psychological Bulletin 117:167–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hill, K., and A. M. Hurtado 1991 The Evolution of Premature Reproductive Senescence and Menopause in Human Females. Human Nature 2:313–350.Google Scholar
  26. Käär, P., J. Jokela, J. Merilä, T. Helle, and I. Kojola 1998 Sexual Conflict and Remarriage in Preindustrial Human Populations: Causes and Fitness Consequences. Evolution and Human Behavior 19:139–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lampert, A., and A. Friedman 1992 Sex Differences in Vulnerability and Maladjustment as a Function of Parental Investment: An Evolutionary Approach. Social Biology 39:65–81.Google Scholar
  28. Pietrzak, R. H., J. D. Laird, D. A. Stevens, and N. S. Thompson 2002 Sex Differences in Human Jealousy: A Coordinated Study of Forced-choice, Continuous Rating Scale, and Physiological Responses on the Same Subjects. Evolution and Human Behavior 23:83–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Robinson, J. P., P. R. Shaver, and L. S. Wrightsman 1991 Criteria for Scale Selection and Evaluation. In Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Attitudes, J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, and L. S. Wrightsman, eds. Pp. 1–16. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Salovey, P., and A. J. Rothman 1989 Envy and Jealousy: Self and Society. In The Psychology of Jealousy and Envy, P. Salovey, ed. Pp. 271–286. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  31. Shackelford, T. K., D. M. Buss, and K. Bennett 2002 Forgiveness or Breakup: Sex Differences in Responses to a Partner’s Infidelity. Cognition and Emotion 16:299–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shackelford, T. K., D. M. Buss, and J. Peters 2000 Wife Killing: Risk to Women as a Function of Age. Violence and Victims 15:273–282.Google Scholar
  33. Shackelford, T. K., G. J. LeBlanc, and E. Drass 2000 Emotional Reactions to Infidelity. Cognition and Emotion 14:643–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Symons, D. 1979 The Evolution of Human Sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Voracek, M. 2001 Marital Status as a Candidate Moderator Variable of Male-Female Differences in Sexual Jealousy: The Need for Representative Population Samples. Psychological Reports 88:553–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wiederman, M. W., and E. Kendall 1999 Evolution, Sex, and Jealousy: Investigation with a Sample from Sweden. Evolution and Human Behavior 20:121–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Aldine Transaction 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd K. Shackelford
    • 5
    Email author
  • Martin Voracek
    • 1
  • David P. Schmitt
    • 2
  • David M. Buss
    • 3
  • Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford
    • 5
  • Richard L. Michalski
    • 4
  1. 1.University of ViennaAustria
  2. 2.Bradley UniversityUSA
  3. 3.University of Texas at AustinUSA
  4. 4.Hollins UniversityUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyFlorida Atlantic UniversityDavieUSA

Personalised recommendations