Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Materialism in marriage linked to devaluation of marriage


Madonna may have loved living in a material world as a material girl, but a recent study shows that married couples should avoid living according to this '80s jam at all costs.
Jason Carroll, BYU professor of marriage and family studies, and two graduate students, Ashley LeBaron and Heather Kelly, have provided more insight into what may be one of the roots of the dissatisfaction caused by materialism -- a diminished view of the importance of marriage itself.
"We know that materialism can lead to poor money management and that leads to debt and strain, but financial factors may not be the only issue at play in these situations," Carroll said. "Materialism is not an isolated life priority; as the pursuit of money and possessions are prioritized, it appears that other dimensions of life, such as relationships, are deemphasized."
Carroll and his team surveyed 1,310 married individuals to measure materialism, perception of marriage importance and marital satisfaction. Each participant was given statements such as, "Having nice things today is more important to me than saving for the future" and "Having money is very important to me." They were then asked to rank how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statements.
The study found that higher levels of materialism are linked to a decreased sense of importance of marriage and less satisfaction in a marriage. One of the possible causes is that materialism crowds out other life priorities and creates a scarcity of time for other relationship priorities such as communication, conflict resolution and intimacy. Carroll and his graduate students also found that materialism may be associated with a possession-oriented rather than a relationship-oriented approach to happiness. In short, materialistic spouses may be seeking happiness in possessions, rather than people -- which means they end up putting less time and energy into making their marriage a success.
For Caroll, the study is a continuation of his previous research on the topic, which received national coverage from news outlets. But while his previous study showed what kinds of problems materialism causes, this new study shows why they occur.
"Marriage dissatisfaction occurs because those who highly value money and possessions are likely to value their marriage less, and are thus likely to be less satisfied in their relationship," said LeBaron, the study's lead author.
Despite the findings, Carroll believes that changes can be made for couples to solve materialism issues.
"Many people are not fully aware of their materialism or the degree to which the pursuit of money is becoming an unbalanced priority in their life," Carroll said. "It is helpful for spouses to evaluate and openly discuss the time patterns in their lives and make sure they are devoting enough time to prioritize and strengthen their marriage relationship." 
Their findings have been published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Predictors for infidelity and divorce


As Valentine's Day approaches, it's reassuring to know many of us are equipped with the basic psychological instincts to have a successful intimate relationship that lasts.

New research from Florida State University highlights ways to keep love and also identifies clear predictors for failed relationships.

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology today, FSU psychology researchers Jim McNulty, Andrea Meltzer, Anastasia Makhanova and Jon Maner reveal factors that lead to infidelity, as well as prevent it. Their research is the first to find evidence of psychological responses that help a person avoid infidelity -- one of the surest ways to cause a breakup -- and stay in a long-term relationship.

The FSU research team followed 233 newly married couples for up to 3 1/2 years and documented intimate details about their relationships, including marital satisfaction, long-term commitment, whether they had engaged in infidelity and if they were still together.

McNulty, Meltzer, Makhanova and Maner tested two psychological processes that everyone shares in varying degrees: Attentional Disengagement and Evaluative Devaluation of potential romantic partners.

Disengagement from possible partners is the ability to direct attention away from an attractive person who could be considered a romantic option.

Devaluation of possible partners is a tendency to mentally downgrade the attractiveness of another person, even if he or she is especially good looking.

The team tested newlyweds on those processes by showing them photographs of highly attractive men and women, as well as average-looking men and women.

Researchers discovered that participants who quickly disengaged their attention from an attractive person were less likely to engage in infidelity. The time of that response was notable: Individuals who looked away in as little as a few hundred milliseconds faster than average were nearly 50 percent less likely to have sex outside marriage.

Conversely, partners who took significantly longer to look away from romantic alternatives had a higher risk of infidelity, and their marriages were more likely to fail.

The tendency to devalue, or downgrade, the attractiveness of potential romantic partners also lowered the risk of infidelity and raised the likelihood of maintaining the relationship. Faithful people evaluated romantic alternatives much more negatively.

Both reactions -- disengagement and devaluation -- minimized the risk of infidelity and, consequently, were predictors of relationships with a higher likelihood of succeeding.

These reactions are typically automatic, according to McNulty.

"People are not necessarily aware of what they're doing or why they're doing it," said McNulty, the lead author of the study. "These processes are largely spontaneous and effortless, and they may be somewhat shaped by biology and/or early childhood experiences."

The FSU research team believes these findings could offer mental health practitioners practical suggestions to help people stay committed to their partners. While the processes may be ingrained to some degree, McNulty said a growing body of research suggests people may be able to boost their psychological ability to employ disengagement or devaluation when tempted.

The study also identified some of the strongest predictors of infidelity, including age, marital satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, attractiveness and history of short-term relationships.

Researchers found younger people and those less satisfied with their relationships were more likely to be unfaithful.

Surprisingly, people satisfied with sex in their relationship were more likely to engage in infidelity, perhaps suggesting they felt more positive about sex in general and would seek it out regardless of how they felt about their main relationship.

Another predictor of infidelity was attractiveness. A person's own attractiveness was negatively associated with infidelity among women but not men -- meaning less attractive women were more likely to have an affair. A partner's attractiveness was negatively associated with infidelity among men but not women -- meaning men were more likely to be unfaithful when their partners were less attractive.

A person's history of sex was a predictor of infidelity, too. Men who reported having more short-term sexual partners prior to marriage were more likely to have an affair, while the opposite was true for women.

These findings are more important than ever. The divorce rate in the United States ranges between 40 and 50 percent, and the ubiquity of social media makes it easier to connect with others. There is a compelling need, the researchers concluded, to develop new ways that help people maintain long-term relationships.

"With the advent of social media, and thus the increased availability of and access to alternative partners, understanding how people avoid the temptation posed by alternative partners may be more relevant than ever to understanding relationships."

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Relationship factors affect decisions about contraceptive use among young adults


The dynamics of a couple's relationship, including the exclusivity of the partnership, the level of commitment to the partnership and participation in sexual decision-making with their partner, impact young adults' decisions related to contraceptive use, new research from Oregon State University shows. 

Young adults who reported greater exclusivity with a partner and great relationship commitment were more likely to use hormonal or long-acting methods of birth control or a less effective or no birth control, rather than condoms, the study found.

Individuals who indicated they had played a strong role in sexual decision-making in their relationships were more likely to use condoms alone or both condoms and a hormonal or long-acting method of birth control.

The findings indicate that the qualities and dynamics of a specific relationship are significant predictors of contraceptive use, said the study's lead author, S. Marie Harvey, associate dean and distinguished professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

"Decisions regarding whether to use any contraceptive method, as well as the use of specific methods, are influenced by an individual's perceived risk of pregnancy and risk of acquiring a sexually-transmitted infection," Harvey said. "These perceptions likely differ depending on how individuals feel about a particular partner."

The findings were published recently in The Journal of Sex Research; the study was supported by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.

Unprotected sex can lead to both unintended pregnancy as well as transmission and acquisition of sexually-transmitted infections, or STIs. Young adults are at the greatest risk for contracting STIs and young women have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy.

Condoms are unique in their ability to both protect against unintended pregnancy and STIs.

Long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) or hormonal implants or pills are highly effective methods of preventing pregnancy. Dual use of both condoms and a long-acting contraceptive method provides the best defense against both unintended pregnancy and STIs.

Researchers examined data from a longitudinal study of at-risk young adults whose relationships were tracked over a year through a series of structured interviews every four months. In all 1,280 interviews from 470 young adults were conducted.

The participants answered questions about their sexual activity, partners, contraceptive use, and relationship factors such as duration of sexual relationship, frequency of sex and perceived exclusivity with a partner. Relationship commitment levels and sexual-decision making - an individual's perceived role in the couple's decisions around use of contraceptives - were also measured.

Over the course of the study, 41 percent of participants reported using only condoms; nearly 25 percent used only a hormonal/long-acting form a birth control, and 13 percent reported using dual methods. The remainder used either no method or a less effective method of birth control.

Participants' choices were influenced by their perceived vulnerability to pregnancy and perceived vulnerability to STIs, as well as qualities and dynamics of a specific relationship, such as commitment and sexual decision-making.

"It has to do with how much you trust your partner and how committed you feel in that relationship," Harvey said. "As relationships become more trusting and committed, individuals may be less likely to protect themselves from disease transmission and condom use will decline. As commitment develops between sexual partners, trust in one's partner may become a substitute for safer sex behavior for both disease and pregnancy prevention."

Understanding how young adults make decisions about birth control use can assist health care providers with tailoring their conversations about birth control choices and risks to meet the needs for each individual, said Lisa Oakley, a co-author of the paper and a post-doctoral researcher at OSU.
The findings indicate that public health educators and medical clinicians may benefit from understanding their patient's relationship status, because an individual's behavior and decisions may be affected by those of his or her partner(s), their role in decision-making and their perceived levels of commitment, Harvey said.

"If it is a committed relationship and the couple is sharing in decision-making about birth control, it may be wise to involve the partner in those discussions," she said. "If it's not a committed relationship, then it's really important to talk to the patient about being proactive in protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy or STIs."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Interest in sex rises at Christmas, with more births nine months later


It's often wryly observed that birth rates peak in September, with many studies citing seasonal changes in human biology to explain this post-holiday "baby boom." But new research from scientists at Indiana University and the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Portugal finds that spikes in pregnancies are actually rooted in society, not biology.

The evidence was discovered in the "collective unconscious" of web searches and Twitter posts that researchers now use to reveal our hidden desires and motivations.

"The rise of the web and social media provides the unprecedented power to analyze changes in people's collective mood and behavior on a massive scale," said Luis M. Rocha, a professor in the IU School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, who co-led the study. "This study is the first 'planetary-level' look at human reproduction as it relates to people's moods and interest in sex online."

The study, which appears Dec. 21 in the journal Scientific Reports, draws upon data from nearly 130 countries that included sex-related Google search terms from 2004 to 2014 and 10 percent of public Twitter posts from late 2010 to early 2014.

The analysis revealed that interest in sex peaks significantly during major cultural or religious celebrations -- based upon a greater use of the word "sex" or other sexual terms in web searches. These peaks broadly corresponded to an increase in births nine months later in countries with available birth-rate data.

Moreover, the effect was observed in two different cultures, with the greatest spike occurring during major holiday celebrations: Christmas in Christian-majority countries and Eid-al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, in Muslim-majority countries.

The use of data from the Northern and Southern hemispheres is notable since past analyses tended to focus on smaller geographic areas in the Western and Northern hemispheres. The case of Eid-al-Fitr is significant because the holiday does not occur on the same day each year, but the measured effect still shifts accordingly, following a clear cultural pattern.

Because the seasons are reversed on opposites sides of the globe, and peak birth rates and online interest in sex did not change based on geography, the researchers concluded the relationship between these effects is unrelated to biological shifts caused by changes in daylight, temperature or food availability.

"We didn't see a reversal in birth rate or online interest in sex trends between the Northern and Southern hemispheres -- and it didn't seem to matter how far people lived from the equator," Rocha said. "Rather, the study found culture -- measured through online mood -- to be the primary driver behind cyclic sexual and reproductive behavior in human populations."

To understand the higher interest in sex during holidays, the researchers also conducted a sophisticated review of word choices in Twitter posts -- known as a "sentiment analysis" -- to reveal that, collectively, people appear to feel happier, safer and calmer during the holidays.

When these collective moods appear on other occasions throughout the year, the analysis also found a corresponding increase in online interest in sex. Interestingly, Thanksgiving and Easter did not generate the same mood and online interest in sex.

"We observe that Christmas and Eid-Al-Fitr are characterized by distinct collective moods that correlate with increased fertility," Rocha said. "Perhaps people feel a greater motivation to grow their families during holidays when the emphasis is on love and gift-giving to children. The Christmas season is also associated with stories about the baby Jesus and holy family, which may put people in a loving, happy, 'family mood.'"

The study's results are notable for reasons beyond curiosity about the rise in babies born nine months after the holidays. For example, Rocha said the findings could help public health researchers pinpoint the best dates to launch public awareness campaigns encouraging safe sex in developing countries lacking in reliable birth-rate data.

"The strong correlation between birth rates and the holidays in countries where birth-rate data is available -- regardless of hemisphere or the dominant religion -- suggests these trends are also likely to hold true in developing nations," he added. "These types of analyses represent a powerful new data source for social science and public policy researchers."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder



Men under the influence of alcohol are more likely to see women as sexual objects. This is according to a study which moves beyond the mere anecdotal to investigate some of the circumstances and factors that influence why men objectify women. The research is published in Springer's journal Sex Roles and is led by Abigail Riemer of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US.

The study involved 49 men in their twenties and was conducted in the safe space of a college laboratory. Of the 49 subjects, 29 received two alcoholic drinks to mildly intoxicate them, and the rest received placebo drinks. All were shown photographs of 80 undergraduate women dressed to go out, and were asked to rate the women's appearances and personality. The women's photos were previously rated by an independent panel on how much warmth, good-naturedness, friendliness, competence, intelligence, confidence, and attractiveness they exuded. Eye-tracking technology noted which part of the women's bodies men were looking at when they were shown the images.

When the men assessed a photographed woman based on her appearance, the instruction most often triggered objectifying gazes from them. They spent less time looking at faces and focused far longer on chests and waists. This was particularly true when viewing women who had been rated high in attractiveness. It happened to a lesser degree when viewing women who exuded warmth and competence, especially when men were slightly drunk. The findings suggest that whether a man will sexually objectify a woman depends on the alcohol intoxication of the man, as well as how attractive, warm and competent a woman is perceived to be.

"The sum of these results supports the notion that being perceived as high in humanizing attributes, such as warmth and competence, or being average in attractiveness provides a buffer that protects women from sexual objectification," says Riemer.

"Environments in which alcohol is present are ripe with opportunities for objectifying gazes," adds Riemer, who says that the only other study previously done on the link between alcohol and objectification by men relied on self-reports from women. "Adopting objectifying gazes toward women leads perceivers to dehumanize women, potentially laying the foundation for many negative consequences such as sexual violence and workplace gender discrimination."

She hopes findings from the study will help to challenge specific maladaptive beliefs held by some men that it is OK and acceptable to direct objectifying gazes toward women, especially those who are not typically considered to be attractive or who are not perceived as being competent or to have a warm personality.

"Understanding why the objectifying gaze occurs in the first place is an initial step toward stopping its incidence and its damaging effects," says Riemer, who believes that there might be value in mindfulness-based interventions to help men reflect on how they perceive women. "This may inform primary prevention programs to reduce the continuum of sexual violence that women disproportionately experience."

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bullies have more sex

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Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary Psychological Science which was led by Daniel Provenzano of the University of Windsor in Canada.

Researchers believe that bullying might be more than just objectionable behaviour. It might, in fact, have evolved as a way for men to show dominance and strength, and to signal to women that they are good breeding stock, able to protect their offspring and provide for their needs. From an evolutionary perspective, a man's dominance may make him more attractive to his potential sexual partners, as well as scaring off potential rivals.

Provenzano and his colleagues investigated individual personality differences that might make one person more willing and able to use bullying tactics when competing for sexual partners than others. Two sets of participants were recruited: 144 older adolescents (with a mean age of 18.3) and 396 younger adolescents (with a mean age of 14.6). Participants had to fill in questionnaires about their sex life and number of sexual partners, as well as frequency of bullying perpetration.

Through another questionnaire, the researchers learnt more about six different aspects of the participants' personality, such as their willingness to cooperate with others, or to exploit and antagonise others. The latter is measured by looking at how agreeable and emotionally in tune someone is, as well as how honest and humble they are. Those who do not score high in these latter measures tend to display antisocial personality traits and to subsequently be bullies.

Provenzano's team found that younger people who scored lower in "Honesty-Humility" were more likely to use bullying tactics to pursue more sexual partners than others.

"Younger adolescents lower in 'Honesty-Humility' may therefore strategically manipulate others in a variety of ways to obtain more sexual partners," says Provenzano. "Our findings indirectly suggest that exploitative adolescents may have more sexual partners if they are able to strategically use exploitative behaviour like bullying to target weaker individuals."

According to Provenzano, adolescents lower in "Honesty-Humility" may also use bullying as an intersexual strategy to display traits such as strength and dominance to attract the opposite sex. They might also use bullying to put their rivals in a bad light, or to threaten rivals into withdrawing from intra-sexual competition in order to gain advantage when it comes to potential sexual partners.

"Our results suggest that both research and intervention efforts with older and younger adolescents need to recognize and respond to the relationships between personality, sex and bullying," explains Provenzano.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Taking a spouse's surname can define power in marriage


The pending nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have royal watchers brushing up on royal naming practices and asking 'what's in a name?'

A new study led by a UNLV psychology professor shows that a wife's choice of surnames may influence perceptions of her husband's personality and the distribution of power in the marriage.
In a three-part study conducted in the U.S. and the U.K., Rachael Robnett and her coauthors concluded that men whose wives retain their own surnames after marriage are seen as submissive and less powerful in the relationship.

The study, published on Nov. 21, is the first to examine whether perceptions of a man's personality vary depending on whether his wife takes his name or retains her own.

"The marital surname tradition is more than just a tradition. It reflects subtle gender-role norms and ideologies that often remain unquestioned despite privileging men," said Robnett, an assistant professor of psychology at UNLV.

Using a variety of research methods, researchers found a connection between gender-typed personality traits and perceived power dynamics. Traditionally, instrumentality or aggressive and dominant traits are associated with higher status and power and are often ascribed to men.

Expressivity or more loving and nurturing traits tend to be associated with lower status and power and are often ascribed to women. However, findings in Robnett's study show perceptions of these gender norms change based on a woman's surname choices.

"Our findings indicate that people extrapolate from marital surname choices to make more general inferences about a couple's gender-typed personality traits," she said.

In study 1, the researchers surveyed U.S. undergraduates and asked them to characterize a man whose wife retains her surname after marriage. Respondents described the man using expressive traits and commented that he was "caring," "understanding," "timid," and "submissive."

In study 2, participants in southeast England read a vignette about a fictional engaged couple and took a survey about their perceptions of the woman's surname choices. Respondents perceived the man as higher in expressive traits and lower in instrumental traits when the woman retained her own surname.

In study 3, also conducted with U.S. undergraduates, the researchers examined whether hostile sexism, or an antagonistic attitude toward women, helps to explain individual differences in participants' responses to questions of power in a fictional marriage. Respondents who held firmly to traditional gender roles and can be described as hostile sexists perceived a man whose wife retained her surname as being disempowered.

"We know from prior research that people high in hostile sexism respond negatively to women who violate traditional gender roles," Robnett said. "Our findings show that they also apply stereotypes to nontraditional women's husbands."