Past research has suggested that men are more upset by imagined sexual than emotional infidelity, and women are more upset by imagined emotional infidelity than sexual infidelity. However, experience with infidelity, methodology, and age and gender of the sample may help to explain inconsistent results. Two hundred ninety-four English-speaking undergraduate students and 325 non-college adults in a large mid-Atlantic urban area of the U.S. completed forced-choice or continuous-scale anonymous questionnaires regarding jealousy over a mate’s hypothetical infidelity. Chi-square and MANOVA analyses replicated previous findings of the expected gender difference in all hypothetical forced-choice scenarios. However, results for those participants who reported experience with actual infidelity demonstrated little support for the traditional evolutionary model, as there were no gender differences in which aspect of hypothetical infidelity was reported to be more distressing, and no gender differences at the college level in terms of which aspect of infidelity received the greatest focus. These findings, extrapolated from both undergraduates and adults and accounting for the impact of actual, primed memory of experience of infidelity on hypothetical jealousy scenarios, raise important questions about the validity of hypothetical scenarios of jealousy as proxies for real reactions to actual infidelity. The results of the present study suggest that the lack of a consistent, replicable gender difference across the lifespan may be explained by two related factors: age and actual experience with infidelity.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 28, 2011
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