Thursday, October 30, 2008

Weight does not affect women's sexual behavior

Oregon and Hawaiian researchers have found that a woman's weight does not seem to affect sexual behavior. In fact, overweight women are more likely to report having sex with men than women considered to be of "normal weight."

The study, published in the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, is based on data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth that looked at sexual behavior of more than 7,000 women. Dr. Bliss Kaneshiro, an assistant professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii, was a student at Oregon Health & Science University at the time. Oregon State University professor Marie Harvey helped Kaneshiro with her research because of Harvey's background and expertise in women's sexual and reproductive health issues.

Some studies have suggested that obese and overweight women have a higher risk of unintended pregnancy than do normal weight women, according to Kaneshiro. Although multiple factors, including contraceptive use and its efficacy, may increase the risk of unintended pregnancy among these women, sexual behavior and the frequency of intercourse could also be a factor.

Kaneshiro's objective was to study the impact of body mass index on sexual behavior. It is important to understand this relationship because preexisting physician biases can affect how heavy women are counseled about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases prevention. Kaneshiro studied the relationship between body mass index and sexual behavior, including sexual orientation, age at first intercourse, number of partners, and frequency of intercourse.

"Our analysis demonstrated that obese and overweight women do not differ significantly in some of the objective measures of sexual behavior compared to women of normal weight," said Kaneshiro. "This study indicates that all women deserve diligence in counseling on unintended pregnancy and STD prevention, regardless of body mass index."

The study seems to contradict widely held stereotypes that overweight and obese women are not as sexually active as other women. If anything, the researchers concluded the opposite seems to be true.

"I was glad to see that the stereotype that you have to be slender to have sex is just that, a stereotype," Harvey said.

Kaneshiro said the data showed that overweight women were more likely to report having sexual intercourse with a man, even when she controlled for age, race and type of residence. Ninety-two percent of overweight women reported having a history of sexual intercourse with a man, as opposed to 87 percent of women with a normal body mass index.

"These results were unexpected and we don't really know why this is the case," Kaneshiro said.

Harvey said the important part to take away from the study is that physicians and others who work in women's medical health should never make assumptions about sexual behavior based on outward appearances.

"Some medical practitioners may not do appropriate follow-up with women who are overweight, they might assume they aren't having sex unless they are told otherwise," Harvey said.

Other coauthors on the study include Jeffrey Jensen, Mark Nichols and Alison Edelman of Oregon Health & Science University and Nichole Carlson of the University of Colorado Denver. Kaneshiro's study was awarded first prize at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' annual meeting this year. The abstract can be viewed at: http://www.greenjournal.org/cgi/content/abstract/112/3/586

Romantic relationships are complex

Personality researchers have long known that people who report they have certain personality traits are also more (or less) likely to be satisfied with their romantic partners. Someone who says she is often anxious or moody, for example, is more likely than her less neurotic counterpart to be dissatisfied with her significant other.

In a new analysis, researchers at the University of Illinois found that measuring the quality of romantic relationships is more complex than these earlier studies suggest. While personality has been found to be predictive of perceived relationship satisfaction and success, other measures of relationship quality may offer additional insight into how a romantic relationship is functioning.

“Obviously there are going to be strong links between how you perceive your relationship and how you perceive yourself,” said Ashley Holland, a doctoral student in developmental psychology who led the research as part of her master’s thesis. “But maybe there are not going to be such strong links between how you perceive yourself and how well you actually interact with your partner.”

“Our question was whether personality traits get reflected not just in how people perceive their relationships, but actually how they’re behaving toward one another – and how their bodies respond while they interact,” said Illinois psychology professor Glenn Roisman, a co-author on the study.

The researchers began by giving dating, engaged and married participants a questionnaire about their own and their partners’ personalities and the quality of their relationships. The participants had to indicate where they fell on a spectrum of each of the “big five” personality traits: extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to experience.

This part of the analysis confirmed some of what other studies had found: How an individual describes his own personality characteristics corresponds to how satisfied or dissatisfied he is in his romantic relationship.

The researchers also included two other measures of their subjects’ relationship quality. The researchers’ goal was to compare the self-reported data to that obtained by observation and specific physiological measures. This is the first such study to use all three approaches.

Trained observers watched videotapes of study participants as they discussed disagreements and agreements in their relationships. The observers coded each person on his or her positive and negative behaviors, such as smiling or scowling, avoiding or making eye contact, and so on. Each participant was given a final score that reflected the balance of positive and negative behaviors and attributes observed.

The researchers also measured participants’ heart rate and skin conductance during their interactions. Skin conductance is a gauge of how much a person sweats. Other studies have established that sweating is a sign that the person is making an effort to control his or her own behavior. If a person sweats a lot when engaged in a conversation with her partner, it’s a sign that she is becoming aroused or agitated in a way that requires self-control.

“Both heart rate and skin conductance have been linked to a host of important outcomes in interpersonal relationships, including the likelihood of divorce,” Roisman said. “It’s a problem if you need to inhibit yourself greatly while having a conversation with your partner about the kinds of things that you would ordinarily be talking about and trying to resolve in your daily lives.”

The researchers found that the way the participants described themselves and their relationships was not strongly linked to how they behaved toward one another in the laboratory. This suggests that those who study relationships might need to look deeper than what individuals report about themselves and their romantic partners, Roisman said.

“Romantic relationships are complex and multi-faceted, and, therefore, measuring the quality of romantic relationships should probably include a variety of approaches in order to get a more nuanced view of how the relationship is functioning,” Holland said.

The paper, “Big Five Personality Traits and Relationship Quality: Self-reported, Observational and Physiological Evidence,” appeared this month in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Men are better at detecting infidelities

UNFAITHFUL women beware. Chances are your male partner is on your case. In fact, he is likely to suspect infidelities even when you have kept to the straight and narrow. The flip side is that to counter this constant vigilance, women may be better than men at concealing illicit liaisons.

Paul Andrews at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and colleagues gave 203 young heterosexual couples confidential questionnaires asking them whether they had ever strayed, and whether they suspected or knew their partner had strayed. In this, 29 per cent of men said they had cheated, compared with 18.5 per cent of women.

The men were better than women at judging fidelity. "Eighty per cent of women's inferences about fidelity or infidelity were correct, but men were even better, accurate 94 per cent of the time," says Andrews. They were also more likely to catch out a cheating partner, detecting 75 per cent of the reported infidelities compared with 41 per cent discovered by women (Human Nature, vol 19, p 347). However, men were also more likely to suspect infidelity when there was none.

Andrews says this makes evolutionary sense because unlike women, men can never be certain a baby is theirs. "Men have far more at stake," he says. "When a female partner is unfaithful, a man may himself lose the opportunity to reproduce, and find himself investing his resources in raising the offspring of another man."

"This adds to the evidence that men have evolved defences to detect their partner's infidelity," says David Buss at the University of Texas, Austin. He adds that it demonstrates a "fascinating cognitive bias that leads men to err on the side of caution by overestimating a partner's infidelity".

Andrews suggests that women have countered this by becoming better at covering up affairs. Complex statistical analysis of the data hinted that a further 10 per cent of the women in the study had cheated on top of the 18.5 per cent who admitted to it in the questionnaires, whereas the men had been honest about their philandering.

NEW SCIENTIST IS THE SOURCE http://www.newscientist.com

Gender Affects Perceptions of Infidelity

A new study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy explored how men and women perceive online and offline sexual and emotional infidelity. Results show that men felt sexual infidelity was more upsetting and women felt emotional infidelity was more upsetting.


Monica T. Whitty and Laura-Lee Quigley of Queen’s University Belfast surveyed 112 undergraduate students and asked them questions about sexual and emotional infidelity both offline and on the internet.


When given the choice, men were more upset by sexual infidelity and women were more upset by emotional infidelity.


Additionally, “men were more likely to believe that women have sex when in love and that women believe that men have sex even when they are not in love. It was not, however found that either men or women believe that having cybersex implied the other was also in love or that being in love online implied they were having cybersex.”


“Given the newness of the internet, the rules have still not been clearly defined as to what are acceptable online encounters,” the authors note. “Our results support a social-cognitive model as they demonstrate that social shifts have led men and women to think differently about sex and love.”