Romantic jealousy in early adulthood and in later life

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Todd K. Shackelford.

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Todd K. Shackelford received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997. He is currently an associate professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University, and Chair of the Evolutionary Psychology Area. His current research interests include conflict between the sexes, especially sexual conflict.

Martin Voracek, Ph.D., is a researcher at the Institute of Psychology, University of Vienna. His current research interests include evolutionary psychological perspectives on sex differences, mating strategies, and jealousy.

David P. Schmitt received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1995. He is currently an associate professor of psychology at Bradley University, and Founder and Director of the International Sexuality Description Project, a cross-cultural collaboration that includes over 100 scientists. His current research interests are at the interface of sexuality, personality, and evolutionary psychology.

David M. Buss received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1981. He is currently a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of several books and more than 150 scholarly papers. His current research interests include conflict between the sexes, status and reputation, and mating psychology and behavior.

Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford received her B.A. in psychology from Florida Atlantic University in 1998 and is completing her Ph.D. in evolutionary developmental psychology at the same university. Her current research interests include parent-child conflict, especially child abuse and filicide.

Richard L. Michalski received his B.A. in psychology from Florida Atlantic University in 1998 and is also completing his Ph.D. in evolutionary social psychology from the same university. His current research interests include family relationships, especially parent-child and sibling conflict.

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Shackelford, T.K., Voracek, M., Schmitt, D.P. et al. Romantic jealousy in early adulthood and in later life. Hum Nat 15, 283–300 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-004-1010-z

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Key words

  • Age differences
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Romantic jealousy
  • Sex differences