Friday, June 20, 2014

'Trophy wife' stereotype is largely a myth, new study shows

 
Don't be so quick to judge.

Most people are familiar with the "trophy wife" stereotype that attractive women marry rich men, placing little importance on their other traits, including physical appearance, and that men look for pretty wives but don't care about their education or earnings.

New research, however, by University of Notre Dame Sociologist Elizabeth McClintock, shows the trophy wife stereotype is largely a myth fueled by selective observation that reinforces sexist stereotypes and trivializes women's careers.

In "Beauty and Status: The Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection?" in American Sociological Review, McClintock resolves the paradox between the trophy wife stereotype and the evidence that couples match on both physical attractiveness and socioeconomic status.

Using, for the first time, a nationally representative sample of young couples in which both partners were interviewed and rated for physical attractiveness, McClintock was able to control for matching on attractiveness. She says prior research in this area has ignored two important factors.

"I find that handsome men partner with pretty women and successful men partner with successful women," says McClintock, who specializes in inequality within romantic partnerships. "So, on average, high-status men do have better-looking wives, but this is because they themselves are considered better looking--perhaps because they are less likely to be overweight and more likely to afford braces, nice clothes and trips to the dermatologist, etc. Secondly, the strongest force by far in partner selection is similarity — in education, race, religion and physical attractiveness."

McClintock's research shows that there is not, in fact, a general tendency for women to trade beauty for money. That is not to say trophy wife marriages never happen, just that they are very rare.

"Donald Trump and his third wife Melania Knauss-Trump may very well exemplify the trophy wife stereotype," McClintock says. "But, there are many examples of rich men who partner with successful women rather than 'buying' a supermodel wife.

The two men who founded Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) both married highly accomplished women—one has a PhD and the other is a wealthy entrepreneur."

McClintock says the trophy wife stereotype is most often wrongly-applied among non- celebrities.

"I've heard doctors' wives referred to as trophy wives by observers who only notice her looks and his status and fail to realize that he is good-looking too and that she is also a successful professional--or was before she had kids and left her job," McClintock says.

McClintock's research also indicates that, contrary to the trophy wife stereotype, social class barriers in the marriage market are relatively impermeable. Beautiful women are unlikely to leverage their looks to secure upward mobility by marriage.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

High-status co-eds use 'slut discourse' to assert class advantage


A new study suggests that high-status female college students employ "slut discourse" — defining their styles of femininity and approaches to sexuality as classy rather than trashy or slutty — to assert class advantage and put themselves in a position where they can enjoy sexual exploration with few social consequences.

"Viewing women only as victims of men's sexual dominance fails to hold women accountable for the roles they play in reproducing social inequalities," said lead author Elizabeth A. Armstrong, an associate professor of sociology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan. "By engaging in 'slut-shaming' — the practice of maligning women for presumed sexual activity — women at the top create more space for their own sexual experimentation, at the cost of women at the bottom of social hierarchies."

Titled, "'Good Girls': Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus," the longitudinal ethnographic and interview study, which appears in the June issue of Social Psychology Quarterly, considers a cohort of 53 women (51 freshmen and two sophomores) who lived on the same college dorm floor in the 2004-2005 academic year at a large, moderately selective university in the Midwest. As part of their analysis, Armstrong and her co-authors supplemented data on cohort members accumulated over the course of their college careers with data from individual and group interviews with other female students.

"Fear of being judged often constrains women's sexual experimentation," Armstrong said. "However, we found that high-status women worried less than low-status women about being judged negatively. High-status women conveniently defined the criteria of judgment among women in ways that defined the sorts of sexual exploration they sought as acceptable."

According to Armstrong, participation in the Greek party scene was the most widely accepted signal of peer status on campus, and status fell largely along economic lines as high-status women were primarily from upper and middle class backgrounds while low-status women were from lower-middle-class and working-class backgrounds.

"Surprisingly, women who engaged in less sexual activity were more likely to be publicly labeled a 'slut' than women who engaged in more sexual activity," Armstrong said. "This finding made little sense until we realized that college women also used the term as a way to police class boundaries. High-status women, who were from affluent families, defined themselves as classy compared to other women whom they viewed as trashy or slutty. Less affluent women — and others excluded from high-status circles — equated 'sluttiness' with exclusivity, materialism, and shallowness."

When low-status women attempted to participate in high-status social worlds by attempting to befriend and go out to parties and other social events with high-status women, they risked public humiliation.

"One of the ways that high-status women signaled to those trying to break in to their social groups that they did not fit in was by engaging in public 'slut-shaming,'" Armstrong said. "This often took the form of calling other women out for their dress or deportment, as a way of making it clear that they did not fit in with the high-status group."

Low-status female college students also engaged in "slut discourse" in an effort to level differences between them and their high-status peers, but this behavior had little impact. "High-status women barely recognized the existence of those they considered low-status," Armstrong said.

In terms of the study's policy implications, Armstrong said it is important to recognize that "slut-shaming" is a form of bullying. "In a few recent cases, 'slut-shaming' has played a role in the suicides of girls and young women," Armstrong said. "We hope that our findings are constructively used in campaigns against bullying. We suspect that these campaigns are more likely to be successful if they help young people arrive at deeper understandings of the social processes involved in this type of bullying."


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

People more likely to choose a spouse with similar DNA


Individuals are more genetically similar to their spouses than they are to randomly selected individuals from the same population, according to a new study from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Scientists already knew that people tend to marry others who have similar characteristics, including religion, age, race, income, body type and education, among others.

In the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists show that people also are more likely to pick mates who have similar DNA. While characteristics such as race, body type and even education have genetic components, this is the first study to look at similarities across the entire genome.

"It's well known that people marry folks who are like them," said Benjamin Domingue, lead author of the paper and a research associate at CU-Boulder's Institute of Behavioral Science. "But there's been a question about whether we mate at random with respect to genetics."

For the study, Domingue and his colleagues, including CU-Boulder Associate Professor Jason Boardman, used genomic data collected by the Health and Retirement Study, which is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.

The researchers examined the genomes of 825 non-Hispanic white American couples. They looked specifically at single-nucleotide polymorphisms, which are places in their DNA that are known to commonly differ among humans.

The researchers found that there were fewer differences in the DNA between married people than between two randomly selected individuals. In all, the researchers estimated genetic similarity between individuals using 1.7 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms in each person's genome.

The researchers compared the magnitude of the genetic similarity between married people to the magnitude of the better-studied phenomenon of people with similar educations marrying, known as educational assortative mating. They found that the preference for a genetically similar spouse, known as genetic assortative mating, is about a third of the strength of educational assortative mating.

The findings could have implications for statistical models now used by scientists to understand genetic differences between human populations because such models often assume random mating.

The study also forms a foundation for future research that could explore whether similar results are found between married people of other races, whether people also choose genetically similar friends, and whether there are instances when people prefer mates whose DNA is actually more different rather than more similar.

Women short-changed by fear of, actual premature ejaculation

Premature ejaculation is one of the most common sexual disorders in men. But it is not just the men who suffer; it also causes increased psychological strain and stress in women, as a new survey conducted by Andrea Burri, a clinical psychologist at the University of Zurich, reveals. Around 40 percent of over 1,500 women polled from Mexico, Italy and South Korea indicated that ejaculation control is very important for satisfactory intercourse. It is not the short duration of the act of lovemaking that is primarily regarded as the main source of sexual frustration by the majority of women, but the fact that the man is focused too strongly on delaying ejaculation. As a result, he ignores the sexual needs of the woman and is unable to satisfy her individual desires.

Women who rarely climax suffer more
 
For the majority of the women polled, satisfying sexuality does not only consist of sexual intercourse, but also includes kissing, caressing and other forms of sexual stimulation, which are considered equally important. If the man is primarily preoccupied with his problem, premature ejaculation and thus his performance, these needs are ignored. Sexual intercourse is increasingly determined by time and not "how we like it and what is good for us". "In the long run, the woman becomes distressed and frustrated. Much like the man, she avoids sexual contact for fear of rejection and the resulting trauma for her own sexuality," explains sex researcher Andrea Burri. The woman thus suffers a loss in quality of life and ultimately calls the relationship into question.

It is mainly women who do not perceive intercourse as the central aspect of sexuality, but prioritize sexual creativity that suffer from the man's one-sided attention. "Interestingly, lengthy coitus is primarily important for women who do not have any trouble climaxing," says Burri. For women who rarely reach orgasm – if at all – how long coitus lasts is not central. Instead, the sexual act serves to establish and experience intimacy and commitment. Although premature ejaculation is also regarded as exasperating by women, the short duration is deemed less problematic than the partner's inattentiveness towards their other sexual needs.

The survey reveals that an essentially harmonious relationship often ends in a split due to the woman's psychological strain and bottled-up frustration. The majority of the women indicated having been considerably more satisfied in previous relationships with partners who did not suffer from a sexual problem. This was primarily linked to the fact that too much importance is attached to the problem of premature ejaculation in the current relationship. Moreover, a quarter of the respondents had already experience a breakup in the past because of this sexual problem. "After all, the consequences are often more far-reaching than simple sexual dissatisfaction as, in extreme cases, it poses a threat to the desire to have children if the man already ejaculates prior to actual intercourse," Burri concludes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

* The real difference between how men and women choose their partners


Thursday, May 1, 2014

ASSORTATIVE MATING AND INCOME INEQUALITY


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Assortative mating is the process by which people of similar backgrounds, such
as educational attainment or financial means, select a partner. Over the past
half-century, there has been an increase in positive assortative mating within
the marriage market. In Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality (NBER Working Paper No. 19829), authors Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih
Guner, Georgi Kocharkov, and Cezar Santos document this pattern and consider how
it has affected income inequality across households.

To study this question, the researchers employ a large dataset of hundreds of
thousands of households from the U.S. Census Bureau for the period 1960 to 2005.
They find that more formally educated people are increasingly likely to marry
those with similar educational attainment. Those with less formal education are
also increasingly likely to marry those with lower education levels. Since
household income is strongly correlated with the partners' level of formal
education, the tendency for increased stratification has contributed to greater
inequality over the study period. This pattern has been compounded by growing
disparities in the earnings of those with high and low levels of education.

The authors illustrate this with some examples. In 1960, if a woman with a
less-than-high-school education married a similarly educated man, their family
income, based on the average of individual incomes for those with their
education levels, would have been 77 percent of the national mean household
income. This number dropped to 41 percent in 2005, a fall of 36 percentage
points. Likewise, the income for a married couple consisting of two individuals
with a high school education, relative to national mean household income, fell
by 20 percentage points from 1960 to 2005, from 103 to 83 percent. At the
opposite end of the spectrum, the relative income of a couple consisting of two
college graduates rose by 7 percentage points, from 153 to 160 percent, over
this period. The income of a married couple in which both partners had
post-college education moved up from 176 percent of mean income to 219 percent.

In summary, the authors attribute the growth of household inequality to three
interacting forces. The first is rising returns to education. Earnings across
educational classes have become more polarized. The second factor is increased
positive assortative mating. People with similar socioeconomic backgrounds tend
increasingly to marry each other, exacerbating income inequality. Third, the
increase in married female labor force participation has heightened inequality,
and has also made women's earnings an increasingly important determinant of
household income inequality.
--Les Picker

Monday, March 10, 2014

Some characteristics increase the likelihood of getting married and living together



What makes a person more likely to marry versus cohabitate?


When it comes to romantic relationships, attributes such as health, kindness, and social status have been shown to be important qualities in choosing a partner. It may be surprising to learn, however, that certain personal traits predispose a person towards either getting married or forming a cohabitating relationship.

According to a study recently published in the journal Social Science Research, scoring high on attractiveness, personality, and grooming is associated with a greater probability of entering into a marital relationship for both men and women, but it does not collectively have a significant influence on entering a romantic cohabitating relationship.

The findings suggest that individuals consider multiple personal characteristics when seeking a long-term partner. Under this scenario, what one finds lacking in a specific area could be overcome with strength in another area.

"The findings highlight that Aristotle's famous quote 'The whole is more than the sum of its parts' is pertinent when it comes to personal characteristics and marital arrangements," says Michael T. French, a professor of Health Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami (UM), and corresponding author of this study.

The study accounts for cohabitation and marriage as competing events in contrast to being single and living without a romantic partner. The project examines three possible outcomes: marriage with or without prior cohabitation, cohabitation without subsequently getting married, and neither marriage nor cohabitation.

The results show that 52 percent of married respondents and 51.7 percent of those in cohabiting relationships ending in marriage were rated as above average in physical attractiveness, whereas 45.9 percent of those in a cohabitating relationship without subsequent marriage and 43.6 percent in neither marriage nor cohabitation scored above average on the attractiveness scale. Similar results were found for personality and grooming.

Other interesting findings from the study include the following:

- Women with above average grooming are less likely to cohabit without subsequent marriage.
- For men, having an above average personality has the strongest association with the likelihood of getting married.
- Men with above average physical attractiveness have a greater chance of cohabitation without subsequent marriage.

"Thus, we have the somewhat curious finding that men with above average looks tend to be more likely to cohabit, while men with above average personalities tend to be more likely to marry (but less likely to cohabit)," the study explains.

The study is titled "Personal traits, cohabitation, and marriage." Co-authors are Ioana Popovici, assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University; Philip K. Robins, professor, School of Business Administration at UM, and Jenny F. Homer, senior research associate for the Health Economics Research Group at UM.

The study analyzed a sample of 9,835 respondents that participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The analysis period of the study covers about eight years. That is the interval of time between when interviewers rated the personal characteristics of respondents and when questions about marriage and cohabitation were asked.

At the time the questions about individuals' romantic agreements were asked, the respondents were 24-34 years old. The researchers plan to follow the sample as they enter adulthood to determine whether the same results hold when the individuals are older.