Human Nature

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 239–252 | Cite as

Mate guarding and frequent in-pair copulation in humans

Concurrent or compensatory anti-cuckoldry tactics?
  • Todd K. ShackelfordEmail author
  • Aaron T. Goetz
  • Faith E. Guta
  • David P. Schmitt


Cuckoldry is an adaptive problem faced by parentally investing males of socially monogamous species (e.g., humans and many avian species). Mate guarding and frequent in-pair copulation (IPC) may have evolved as anti-cuckoldry tactics in avian species and in humans. In some avian species, the tactics are used concurrently, with the result that mate guarding behaviors and IPC frequency are correlated positively. In other avian species, the tactics are compensatory, with the result that mate guarding behaviors and IPC frequency are correlated negatively. The relationship between mate guarding and IPC frequency in humans is unknown. Avian males that use these tactics concurrently share with human males an inability to guard a female partner continuously during her peak fertile period. We hypothesized, therefore, that men’s mate guarding and IPC frequency function as concurrent anti-cuckoldry tactics, resulting in a positive correlation between them. Study 1 (n=305) secured men’s self-reports of mate guarding and IPC frequency. Study 2 (n+367) secured women’s reports of their partners’ mate guarding and IPC frequency. The concurrent tactics hypothesis was supported in both studies: Men’s mate guarding and IPC frequency are correlated positively, and this association is not attributable to male age, female age, relationship satisfaction, relationship length, or time that the couple spends together. The Discussion section addresses potential limitations of this research and future research directions.

Key words

Anti-cuckoldry tactics Copulation frequency Mate guarding Sperm competition 


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Copyright information

© Transaction Publishers 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd K. Shackelford
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aaron T. Goetz
    • 1
  • Faith E. Guta
    • 1
  • David P. Schmitt
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida Atlantic UniversityDavieUSA
  2. 2.Bradley UniversityUSA

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