Friday, December 20, 2013

Romance and Holidating

For many people, the holidays are a time for family, travel, gifts, food, stress -- and romance (for better or for worse). Mid-December through mid-February is considered a peak period for online dating, said Justin Garcia, scientific advisor for the international online dating site Match.com and faculty member at Indiana University's Kinsey Institute and Department of Gender Studies. In a survey of 1,000 Match.com clients, 82 percent reported that the holidays make them feel more romantic than other times of the year. In the same study, a quarter of respondents reported experiencing a break-up during the holiday season. "The holidays can be a really stressful time in terms of trying to start new relationships and also getting out of previous relationships," Garcia said. "If we think of what happens with many Americans this time of year, we're traveling, we're spending more money, we're often getting to see family and friends. As much as this can bring a lot of joy and excitement, it can also bring a lot of stress. This combination can be tricky to navigate." Garcia, an evolutionary biologist, is one of the principal investigators for Match.com's annual Singles in America study, the largest study on U.S. singles, drawn not from those on the dating site but from a nationally representative sample. He offers these insights about dating, drawn from the 2012 round of Singles in America and the survey of 1,000 Match.com clients: Holidating The survey of 1,000 people found that 14 percent of men and 10 percent of women admitted to dating someone during the holidays just to have someone to spend the holidays with. Garcia said that inevitably, many singles are grilled over the holidays about their solitary status. "This is unique to humans," he said. "No other animals on the planet are so involved with the mating habits of kin as humans are." *The Internet trumps bars as a place to meet men and women. A historically unprecedented number of single Americans is now turning to the Internet to find love: More than a quarter of singles (27.5 percent) reported that they have dated someone they met online. "Online" includes social media sites, such as Facebook, and chat groups, with the rate dropping to about 21 percent when restricted to online dating sites. Twenty percent of singles met their most recent first date online vs. 7 percent who met at a bar. *Peak season. The peak online dating season is during the holidays, between December and February, when Match.com sees a 25 to 30 percent increase in new members registering. *Second looks can pay off. Thirty-five percent of singles have fallen in love with someone they were not initially attracted to. Of these people, 71 percent became smitten after having great conversations or finding shared interests or both. Garcia said online dating has the benefit of making people aware of singles living near them, in their area or within their search radius. The dating sites provide so many options, however, that it can seem overly complicated. He suggests customers spend some time beforehand thinking about what they want in a relationship and how they can communicate this to their dates. "It's good to have a priority, as is true of so many things," he said. "With online dating, think about what you want. If you're looking for a spouse, it could be more complicated. Love and a spouse come after, with time. Online dating is about dating. There could be many people who you date. Some work out and some don't. But it's meant to be fun. People often want to jump a step." Garcia’s research interests include evolutionary and biocultural models of human behavior, romantic love and intimate relationships, sexual and social monogamy, and uncommitted sex and hook-up culture in emerging adulthood.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fear of being single leads people to settle for less in relationships

Fear of being single is a meaningful predictor of settling for less in relationships among both men and women, a new University of Toronto study has found. The results are published in the December edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Those with stronger fears about being single are willing to settle for less in their relationships,” says lead author Stephanie Spielmann, postdoctoral researcher in the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology. “Sometimes they stay in relationships they aren’t happy in, and sometimes they want to date people who aren’t very good for them.” She adds, “Now we understand that people’s anxieties about being single seem to play a key role in these types of unhealthy relationship behaviours.” Investigators surveyed several samples of North American adults, consisting of University of Toronto undergraduates and community members from Canada and the U.S. The samples included a wide range of ages. “In our results we see men and women having similar concerns about being single, which lead to similar coping behaviours, contradicting the idea that only women struggle with a fear of being single,” says co-author, Professor Geoff MacDonald of the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology. “Loneliness is a painful experience for both men and women, so it’s not surprising that the fear of being single seems not to discriminate on the basis of gender.”

Friday, November 29, 2013

Newlyweds know on subconscious level whether marriage will be unhappy

Although newlyweds may not be completely aware of it, they may know whether their march down the aisle will result in wedded bliss or an unhappy marriage, according to new study led by a Florida State University researcher. Associate Professor of Psychology James K. McNulty and his colleagues studied 135 heterosexual couples who had been married for less than six months and then followed up with them every six months over a four-year period. They found that the feelings the study participants verbalized about their marriages were unrelated to changes in their marital happiness over time. Instead, it was the gut-level negative evaluations of their partners that they unknowingly revealed during a baseline experiment that predicted future happiness. "Although they may be largely unwilling or unable to verbalize them, people's automatic evaluations of their partners predict one of the most important outcomes of their lives — the trajectory of their marital satisfaction," the researchers wrote in a paper published in the Nov. 29 issue of the journal Science. The paper, "Though They May Be Unaware, Newlyweds Implicitly Know Whether Their Marriages Will Be Satisfying," outlined two important findings. First, people's conscious attitudes, or how they said they felt, did not always reflect their gut-level or automatic feelings about their marriage. Second, it was the gut-level feelings, not their conscious ones, that actually predicted how happy they remained over time. "Everyone wants to be in a good marriage," McNulty said. "And in the beginning, many people are able to convince themselves of that at a conscious level. But these automatic, gut-level responses are less influenced by what people want to think. You can't make yourself have a positive response through a lot of wishful thinking." To conduct the experiment, the researchers asked the individuals to report their relationship satisfaction and the severity of their specific relationship problems. The participants also were asked to provide their conscious evaluations by describing their marriage according to 15 pairs of opposing adjectives, such as "good" or "bad," "satisfied" or "unsatisfied." Most interesting to the researchers, though, were the findings regarding another measure designed to test their automatic attitudes, or gut-level responses. The experiment involved flashing a photo of the study participant's spouse on a computer screen for just one-third of a second followed by a positive word like "awesome" or "terrific" or a negative word like "awful" or "terrible." The individuals simply had to press a key on the keyboard to indicate whether the word was positive or negative. The researchers used special software to measure reaction time. "It's generally an easy task, but flashing a picture of their spouse makes people faster or slower depending on their automatic attitude toward the spouse," McNulty said. "People who have really positive feelings about their partners are very quick to indicate that words like 'awesome' are positive words and very slow to indicate that words like 'awful' are negative words." That's because positive gut-level attitudes facilitate congruent cognitive processes and interfere with incongruent cognitive processes. In other words, McNulty explained, people with positive gut-level attitudes were really good at processing positive words but bad at processing negative words when those automatic attitudes were activated. The opposite was also true. When a spouse had negative feelings about their partner that were activated by the brief exposure to the photo, they had a harder time switching gears to process the positive words. Both the explicit and implicit experiments were performed only once, at the baseline, but the researchers checked in with the couples every six months and asked them to report relationship satisfaction. The researchers found that the respondents who unwittingly revealed negative or lukewarm attitudes during the implicit measure reported the most marital dissatisfaction four years later. The conscious attitudes were unrelated to changes in marital satisfaction. "I think the findings suggest that people may want to attend a little bit to their gut," McNulty said. "If they can sense that their gut is telling them that there is a problem, then they might benefit from exploring that, maybe even with a professional marriage counselor."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sexual Regret

In the largest, most in-depth study to date on regret surrounding sexual activity, a team of psychology researchers found a stark contrast in remorse between men and women, potentially shedding light on the evolutionary history of human nature.

Researchers for the peer-reviewed study included University of Texas at Austin evolutionary psychologist David Buss. The study was led by Andrew Galperin, a former social psychology doctoral student at the University of California-Los Angeles; and Martie Haselton, a UCLA social psychology professor. It is published in the current issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The findings show how human emotions such as regret can play an important role in survival and reproduction. They suggest that men are more likely to regret not taking action on a potential liaison, and women are more remorseful for engaging in one-time liaisons.

"Prior sex researchers have focused primarily on the emotion of sexual attraction in sexual decisions," Buss says. "These studies point to the importance of a neglected mating emotion —sexual regret — which feels experientially negative but in fact can be highly functional in guiding adaptive sexual decisions."

Evolutionary pressures probably explain the gender difference in sexual regret, says Haselton, who earned her Ph.D. in psychology at UT Austin.

"For men throughout evolutionary history, every missed opportunity to have sex with a new partner is potentially a missed reproduce opportunity — a costly loss from an evolutionary perspective." Haselton says. "But for women, reproduction required much more investment in each offspring, including nine months of pregnancy and potentially two additional years of breastfeeding. The consequences of casual sex were so much higher for women than for men, and this is likely to have shaped emotional reactions to sexual liaisons even today."

In three studies the researchers asked participants about their sexual regrets. In the first study, 200 respondents evaluated hypothetical scenarios in which someone regretted pursuing or failing to pursue an opportunity to have sex. They were then asked to rate their remorse on a five-point scale. In the second study, 395 participants were given a list of common sexual regrets and were asked to indicate which ones they have personally experienced. The last study replicated the second one with a larger sample of 24,230 individuals that included gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents.

According to the findings:

  • The top three most common regrets for women are: losing virginity to the wrong partner (24 percent), cheating on a present or past partner (23 percent) and moving too fast sexually (20 percent).
  • For men, the top three regrets are: being too shy to make a move on a prospective sexual partner (27 percent), not being more sexually adventurous when young (23 percent) and not being more sexually adventurous during their single days (19 percent).
  • More women (17 percent) than men (10 percent) included "having sex with a physically unattractive partner" as a top regret.
  • Although rates of actually engaging in casual sex were similar overall among participants (56 percent), women reported more frequent and more intense regrets about it.
  • Comparing gay men and lesbian women, and bisexual men and bisexual women, a similar pattern held — women tended to regret casual sexual activity more than men did.

Regret comes after the fact, so it's not protective, Haselton notes. But it might help women avoid a potentially costly action again.

"One thing that is fascinating about these emotional reactions in the present is that they might be far removed from the reproductive consequences of the ancestral past," Haselton says. "For example, we have reliable methods of contraception. But that doesn't seem to have erased the sex differences in women's and men's responses, which might have a deep evolutionary history."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Race and romance online

Usually, research findings on the state of U.S. race relations are pretty bleak. But a study of online dating by UC San Diego sociologist Kevin Lewis suggests that racial barriers to romance are not as insurmountable as we might suppose. Published Nov. 4 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "The Limits of Racial Prejudice" analyzes, over a two-and-a-half month period, the interaction patterns of 126,134 users in the United States of the popular dating site OkCupid.com. The study results in a nutshell: Race still matters online. People still self-segregate as much as they do in face-to-face interactions; most, that is, still reach out to members of their own racial background. But people are more likely to reciprocate a cross-race overture than previous research would lead to us to expect. And – once they have replied to a suitor from a different race – people are then themselves more likely to cross racial lines and initiate interracial contact in the future. Lewis's study of romantic social networks considered only heterosexual interactions, for apples-to-apples comparison with the majority of previous findings, and only those individuals, for the sake of simplicity, who self-identify with one and only one of the top five most populous of OkCupid's racial categories: Black, White, Asian (East Asian), Hispanic/Latino and Indian (South Asian). He analyzed only the first message sent and the first reply. All messages were stripped of content. Only data on the sender, receiver and timestamp of the message were available. The tendency to initiate contact within one's own race, the study observes, is strongest among Asians and Indians and weakest among whites. And the biggest "reversals" are observed among groups that display the greatest tendency towards in-group bias, and also when a person is being contacted by someone from a different racial background for the first time. Lewis unites his varied findings with an explanation he calls "pre-emptive discrimination." "Based on a lifetime of experiences in a racist and racially segregated society, people anticipate discrimination on the part of a potential recipient and are largely unwilling to reach out in the first place. But if a person of another race expresses interest in them first, their assumptions are falsified—and they are more willing to take a chance on people of that race in the future," he said. The effect is short-lived, however: People go back to habitual patterns in about a week. Why? "The new-found optimism is quickly overwhelmed by the status quo, by the normal state of affairs," Lewis said. "Racial bias in assortative mating is a robust and ubiquitous social phenomenon, and one that is difficult to surmount even with small steps in the right direction. We still have a long way to go." Earlier work on racial bias in assortative mating (or the non-random pairings of people with similar traits) had trouble disentangling how much was due to prejudice and how much to geography or meeting opportunities. Lewis was able to control for these factors in his analysis, and this is one reason he is a champion of additional projects of the sort his paper describes. "Online dating is providing new insights into the timeless social process of finding a romantic partner," said Lewis, assistant professor of sociology in the UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences. Not only does dating on the internet have more and more social impact, he said – the most rigorous estimates suggest that nowadays over 20 percent of heterosexual and nearly 70 percent of same-sex relationships begin online – but it is also a novel and rich source of data. Previous work on mate selection has often been based on marriage records, which don't contain any information about a romance's early days, or on self-report surveys, when people are more likely to present themselves in the best, least-prejudiced light. These "digital footprints" of online interactions can give us a glimpse of interpersonal dynamics at the very start of romantic relationships. And Lewis takes heart from his analysis of interactions on OkCupid. We can, he believes, begin to change our ingrained patterns of choosing partners –because they are often based on false premises. The sociologist's cautiously optimistic conclusion is that "racial boundaries are more fragile than we think." When, against the odds, A writes B of another race and B replies, B becomes more open him- or herself in the near term. The "consequences of this action are self-reinforcing," Lewis writes in PNAS, "and might potentially set in motion a chain of future interracial contact among others."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Low-voiced men love 'em and leave 'em, yet still attract more women

Men with low-pitched voices have an advantage in attracting women, even though women know they're not likely to stick around for long. Researchers at McMaster University have found that women were more attracted to men with masculine voices, at least for short-term relationships. Those men were also seen as more likely to cheat and unsuitable for a longer relationship, such as marriage. The study, published online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, offers insight into the evolution of the human voice and how we choose our mates. "The sound of someone's voice can affect how we think of them," explains Jillian O'Connor, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour and lead author of the study. "Until now, it's been unclear why women would like the voices of men who might cheat. But we found that the more women thought these men would cheat, the more they were attracted to them for a brief relationship when they are less worried about fidelity." For the study, 87 women listened to men's voices that were manipulated electronically to sound higher or lower, and then chose who they thought was more likely to cheat on their romantic partner. Researchers also asked the participants to choose the voice they thought was more attractive for a long-term versus a short-term relationship. "From an evolutionary perspective, these perceptions of future sexual infidelity may be adaptive," explains David Feinberg, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. "The consequences of infidelity are very high whether it is emotional or financial and this research suggests that humans have evolved as a protection mechanism to avoid long-term partners who may cheat," he says.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Think your partner is cheating? His or her voice may be a dead giveaway.

New research by Albright College associate professor of psychology Susan Hughes, Ph.D., has found that men and women alter their voices when speaking to lovers versus friends and that such variations can potentially be used to detect infidelity. "It's not just that we change the sound of our voice, but that others can easily perceive those changes," said Hughes, an expert in evolutionary psychology and voice perception. The findings are included in a new article, "People Will Know We Are in Love: Evidence of Differences Between Vocal Samples Directed Toward Lovers and Friends," published this month in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. The study is co-authored by Jack LaFayette, director of institutional research at Albright, and Sally D. Farley, former assistant professor of psychology at Albright, who now teaches at the University of Baltimore. The study looked at how individuals alter their voices, or engage in voice modulation, when speaking to romantic partners versus same-sex friends during brief telephone conversations. Researchers recruited 24 callers who were newly in love and still in the so-called honeymoon period. Callers were asked to phone their romantic partners, as well as a close same-sex friend, and in both cases engage in a conversation asking specifically "how are you?" and "what are you doing?" Researchers then played the recordings to 80 independent raters who judged the samples for sexiness, pleasantness and degree of romantic interest. Raters were exposed to only one end of the conversation and, in some cases, for only 2 seconds. Still, raters were able to correctly identify, with greater than chance accuracy, whether the caller was speaking to a friend or lover, leading researchers to believe that people will alter their voice to communicate their relationship status. "Vocal samples directed toward romantic partners were rated as sounding more pleasant, sexier and reflecting greater romantic interest than those directed toward same-sex friends," according to the article. Researchers also performed a spectrogram analysis on the samples to examine pitch and found that both men and women tend to mimic or match the pitch of their romantic partners. Women will use a lower pitch, while men will employ a higher one when speaking to their romantic partner. According to the article, this effect "represents desire for affiliation and intimacy" and is a "way to communicate affection and relational connection -- 'I am one with you.'" Researchers were, however, surprised by the results of the paralanguage analysis. Paralanguage samples are stripped of their content, while maintaining elements such as inflection and intonation. In these samples, raters could sense stress, nervousness and lack of confidence in the voices of callers speaking to their lovers, which could be attributed to the early stages of romantic love. "There was vulnerability associated with the voices of those newly in love. Perhaps people don't want to be rejected," said Hughes.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stronger Sexual Impulses, Not Weaker Self-Control, May Explain Why Men Cheat More

A recently published study strongly suggests men succumb to sexual temptations more than women — for example, cheating on a partner — because they experience strong sexual impulses, not because they have weak self-control. Previous research has shown that men are more likely than women to pursue romantic partners that are “off limits.” However, until now, the explanation for this sex difference was largely unexplored. One possible explanation for this effect is that men experience stronger sexual impulses than women do. A second possibility is that women have better self-control than men. The current study’s results support the former explanation and provide new insight into humans' evolutionary origins. “Overall, these studies suggest that men are more likely to give in to sexual temptations because they tend to have stronger sexual impulse strength than women do,” says Natasha Tidwell, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Texas A&M University, who authored the study. Paul Eastwick, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, co-authored the study. “But when people exercise self-control in a given situation, this sex difference in behavior is greatly reduced. It makes sense that self-control, which has relatively recent evolutionary origins compared to sexual impulses, would work similarly — and as effectively — for both men and women,” Tidwell said. Recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the study was composed of two separate experiments: the first, to determine how the sexes reacted to real-life sexual temptations in their past and, the second, to pick apart sexual impulses and self-control using a rapid-fire reaction time task. In order to test their first hypothesis, researchers recruited 218 (70 male, 148 female) study participants from the United States. Participants were first asked to recall and describe an attraction to an unavailable or incompatible member of the opposite sex. They then answered survey questions designed to measure strength of sexual impulse, attempts to intentionally control the sexual impulse, and resultant behaviors. “When men reflected on their past sexual behavior, they reported experiencing relatively stronger impulses and acting on those impulses more than women did,” says Tidwell. However, men and women did not differ in the extent to which they exerted self-control. “When men and women said they actually did exert self-control in sexual situations, impulse strength didn’t predict how much either sex would actually engage in ‘off-limits’ sex,” added Tidwell. “Men have plenty of self-control — just as much as women,” says Eastwick. “However, if men fail to use self-control, their sexual impulses can be quite strong. This is often the situation when cheating occurs.” In order to measure the strength of sexual impulse relative to the strength of impulse control, the researchers recruited 600 undergraduate students (326 men, 274 women) to participate in a “Partner Selection Game.” Participants were very briefly shown images of opposite-sex individuals; the images were tagged either “good for you” or “bad for you.” Participants were asked to accept or reject potential partners based on the computer-generated “good for you” or “bad for you” prompt. While they were shown photographs of both desirable and undesirable individuals, participants were instructed to make acceptance and rejection choices based on the computer-generated tags. In some trials, participants were asked to accept desirable and reject undesirable individuals; in other trials, participants were asked to go against their inclinations by rejecting desirable individuals and accepting undesirable individuals. Men experienced a much stronger impulse to “accept” the desirable rather than the undesirable partners, and this impulse partially explained why men performed worse on the task than women did. However, this same procedure estimates people’s ability to exert control over their responses, and men did not demonstrate a poorer ability to control their responses relative to women.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Couples Improve Sex Life through Yoga

Partner yoga may help couples who are struggling with sexual dysfunction, according to sexual wellness experts at Loyola University Health System (LUHS). This form of yoga uses massage, breathing exercises and mutually beneficial postures couples can do together to build trust, relax and have fun. “Distance and resentment can develop in marriages over time,” said Susan Walsh, PsyD, psychologist and certified yoga instructor for Loyola’s Sexual Wellness Clinic. “Partner yoga can clear this negative energy and help a couple reconnect and become comfortable with touch and intimacy." Loyola will offer a 90-minute partner yoga session as part of its new Sexual Wellness Clinic. The clinic combines the expertise of various specialists and takes a holistic approach to address common emotional and physical challenges that couples face in their sexual relationships. The most common problems that affect sexual health include decreased libido, painful intercourse, inability to have an orgasm, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Loyola’s program will address these issues in six weekly visits led by a team of obstetricians and gynecologists, urologists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, dietitians and yoga instructors. A group educational session will take place each week along with private counseling. A private physical examination also will be offered with an obstetrician/gynecologist and a urologist. The partner yoga class will be part of the group educational sessions, which will address envisioning greater intimacy, becoming open and vulnerable, finding life and relationship balance, exploring healthier possibilities, connecting mind and body, and gaining and keeping momentum. These group sessions are informational only. Participants will not be asked to talk about their sexual relationship in a group setting. “Our sexual wellness specialists recognize that there are many factors that affect intimacy,” said Dr. Walsh, who also is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Partner yoga will be one way that we help couples strengthen their relationship emotionally, physically and spiritually to ultimately build a deeper connection and improve sexual health." Couples interested in this program should call (708) 216-2364.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What do liberals and conservatives look for in a date?

Liberals and conservatives are looking for the same thing when they join online dating websites, according to new research co-authored by University of Miami political scientist Casey Klofstad. The study, published in Political Behavior, shows that both liberals and conservatives are looking for a partner who is like themselves. For their study, titled "The Dating Preferences of Liberals and Conservatives," the research team randomly sampled 2,944 profiles from a popular Internet dating site, and examined the dating preference of users who identified as either liberal of conservative. The data allowed them to compare the way each dater described themselves on a number of dimensions, including race and ethnicity, religion, and the desire to have children, to the characteristics of their ideal date. Overall, regardless of ideology, daters want a partner that shares their characteristics. Klofstad says that the tendency to seek out partners that are like us could contribute to the increasing political divide between liberals and conservatives. "Parents pass their political preferences on to their children. So, if we are more easily able to find someone like ourselves by 'shopping' for a partner online, Internet dating could hasten this process of political polarization. Of course, this process would occur over generations, not overnight." Other findings: Few individuals were willing to express a definitive political preference. The majority of online daters, 57 percent, reported that their politics are "middle of the road" rather than liberal or conservative. When asked to describe their body type, a larger proportion of daters voluntarily described themselves either "heavy set," having "a few extra pounds" or "stocky" than listed "politics" as one of their interests. Conservative daters are more likely to be males and are less likely to belong to a racial or ethnic minority group. Liberals are younger, less likely to have been married, and less likely to have children. While liberal daters are better-educated than conservatives, this does not translate into any detectable income disparities between the two groups. By and large, liberals and conservatives do not differ in their tendencies to seek out a partner that shares their characteristics. There are some notable exceptions, however. Overall, conservatives appear to be somewhat less accepting of dissimilarity. For example, conservatives are more likely than liberals to desire a date who shares their current relationship status, and conservative males are more likely than liberal males to want to date a female of their own race.

Monday, September 9, 2013

College educated cohabit before marriage, but marry before conceiving children

Since 1950 the sources of the gains from marriage have changed radically. As the educational attainment of women overtook and surpassed that of men and the ratio of men's to women's wage rates fell, traditional patterns of gender specialization in work weakened. The primary source of the gains to marriage shifted from the production of household services and commodities to investment in children. For some, these changes meant that marriage was no longer worth the costs of limited independence and potential mismatch. Cohabitation became an acceptable living arrangement for all groups, but cohabitation serves different functions among different groups. The poor and less educated are much more likely to rear children in cohabitating relationships. The college educated typically cohabit before marriage, but they marry before conceiving children and their marriages are relatively stable. This paper argues that different patterns of child-rearing are the key to understanding class differences in marriage and parenthood, not an unintended by-product of it. Marriage is the commitment mechanism that supports high levels of investment in children and is hence more valuable for parents adopting a high-investment strategy for their children.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Study challenges popular perception of new 'hookup culture' on college campuses

A University of Portland study challenges the popular perception that there is a "new and pervasive hookup culture" among contemporary college students. "Recent research and popular media reports have described intimate relationships among contemporary college students as characterized by a new and pervasive hookup culture in which students regularly have sex with no strings attached," said study co-author Martin Monto, a sociology professor at the University of Portland. "This implies that the college campus has become a more sexualized environment and that undergraduates are having more sex than in the past. We were surprised to find this is not the case." In their study, Monto and co-author Anna Carey used a nationally representative sample from the General Social Survey of more than 1,800 18 to 25-year-olds, who had graduated from high school and completed at least one year of college. Monto and Carey, a recent University of Portland graduate with a BA in sociology and psychology, compared responses from 1988-1996 with those from 2002-2010, the era that researchers often describe as characterized by a "hookup culture." "We found that college students from the contemporary or 'hookup era' did not report having more frequent sex or more sexual partners during the past year or more sexual partners since turning 18 than undergraduates from the earlier era," said Monto, who along with Carey, will present the findings at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. Among the 1988-1996 cohort, 65.2 percent reported having sex weekly or more often in the past year, compared to 59.3 percent of college students from the "hookup era." In addition, 31.9 percent of the earlier cohort reported having more than one sexual partner in the past year, compared with 31.6 percent of contemporary college students. Also, 51.7 percent of the earlier group reported having more than two sexual partners after turning 18, compared to 50.5 percent of the 2002-2010 cohort. In terms of attitudes toward other sexual norms, the researchers also found that contemporary college students were no more accepting than those in the earlier cohort of sex between 14 to 16-year-olds, married adults having sex with someone other than their spouse, or premarital sex between adults. But contemporary college students were significantly more accepting of sex between adults of the same sex. "Our results provide no evidence that there has been a sea change in the sexual behavior of college students or that there has been a significant liberalization of attitudes towards sex," Monto said. However, Monto said it is true that sexually active college students from the contemporary era were more likely than those from the earlier era to report that one of their sexual partners during the past year was a casual date/pickup (44.4 percent compared to 34.5 percent) or a friend (68.6 percent compared to 55.7 percent), and less likely to report having a spouse or regular sexual partner (77.1 percent compared to 84.5 percent). "Contemporary college students are coping with a new set of norms in which marriage occurs later," Monto said. "This means the idea of waiting until marriage to begin sexual behavior is a less tenable narrative. Courtship and relationship practices are changing, and the implications of these changes present a new unique set of challenges, but this study demonstrates that we are not in the midst of a new era of no rules attached sexuality. In fact, we found that, overall, sexual behavior among college students has remained fairly consistent over the past 25 years."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Beliefs about who should pay for dates

Chapman University's David Frederick will present new research at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association that examines men's and women's beliefs about who should pay for dates during courtship, and how couples actually go about splitting expenses. The paper, "Who Pays for Dates? Following versus Challenging Conventional Gender Norms," contains survey data from more than 17,000 participants; a quarter of whom also provided written commentaries to explain their beliefs and actions regarding paying for dates. "The motivation for the study was to understand why some gendered practices are more resistant to change than others; for example, the acceptance of women in the workplace versus holding onto traditional notions of chivalry," said Frederick, who co-authored the study with Janet Lever, of California State University, Los Angeles, and Rosanna Hertz, of Wellesley College. Conventional notions of chivalry dictate that on a "date," the man pays, whereas egalitarian ideals suggest gender should not determine who pays for the entertainment expenses. This research examines the extent to which people embrace or reject these competing notions after nearly 50 years of feminism. It is known that most marriages (8 in 10) today are based on sharing the breadwinner's burden, so one question was whether that role is shared prior to marriage and, if so, how early in the dating process. Consistent with conventional norms, most men (84 percent) and women (58 percent) reported that men pay for most expenses, even after dating for a while. Over half (57 percent) of women claim they offer to help pay, but many women (39 percent) confessed they hope men would reject their offers to pay, and 44 percent of women were bothered when men expected women to help pay. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of men believed that women should contribute to dating expenses, and many feel strongly about that: Nearly half of men (44 percent) said they would stop dating a woman who never pays. A large majority of men (76 percent), however, reported feeling guilty accepting women's money. In terms of behavior, even if men are paying a larger proportion of expenses, 4 in 10 men and women agreed that dating expenses were at least partially shared within the first month, and roughly three-fourths (74 percent of men, 83 percent of women) reported some sharing of expenses by six months. These data illustrate which people are resisting or conforming to conventional gender norms in one telling aspect of dating that historically was related to the male's displaying benevolent sexism and dominance as a breadwinner. Whereas young men and women in their 20s were the most likely to endorse egalitarian practices, this is a mass culture phenomenon — the same basic patterns were seen regardless of daters' ages, income, or education. Although there is evidence of resistance to change, the data suggest that the deep-rooted courtship ritual around who pays is also changing along with the transformation of the relative material and social power of women and men.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

One in Three U. S. Youths Report Being Victims of Dating Violence

About one in three American youths age 14-20 say they've been of victims of dating violence and almost one in three acknowledge they've committed violence toward a date, according to new research presented at the American Psychological Association's 121st Annual Convention. "Adolescent dating violence is common among young people. It also overlaps between victimization and perpetration and appears across different forms of dating abuse," according to Michele Ybarra, MPH, PhD. She is with the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, based in San Clemente, Calif. Researchers analyzed information collected in 2011 and 2012 from 1,058 youths in the Growing Up with Media study, a national online survey funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study defines teen dating violence as physical, sexual or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship. Girls were almost equally likely to be a perpetrator as a victim of violence: 41 percent reported victimization and 35 percent reported perpetration at some point in their lives. Among boys, 37 percent said they had been on the receiving end, while 29 percent reported being the perpetrator, Ybarra said. Twenty-nine percent of the girls and 24 percent of the boys reported being both a victim and perpetrator in either the same or in different relationships. Girls were significantly more likely than boys to say they had been victims of sexual dating violence and that they had committed physical dating violence. Boys were much more likely than girls to report that they had been sexually violent toward a date. Experiencing psychological dating violence was about equal for boys and girls. Rates generally increased with age but were similar across race, ethnicity and income levels, according to Ybarra. The relationship between bullying and teen dating violence was the focus of a separate presentation by Sabina Low, PhD, of Arizona State University, and Dorothy L. Espelage, of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Low and Espelage detailed findings from a five-year study funded by the CDC and National Institute of Justice involving 625 American youths who completed surveys six times from middle school through high school. "Both boys and girls who engaged in high rates of bullying toward other students at the start of the study were seven times more likely to report being physically violent in dating relationships four years later," said Espelage, principal investigator on the project. "These findings indicate that bully prevention needs to start early in order to prevent the transmission of violence in dating relationships."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Marriage rate lowest in a century

Fewer women are getting married and they're waiting longer to tie the knot when they do decide to walk down the aisle. That's according to a new Family Profile from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University. According to "Marriage: More than a Century of Change," the U.S. marriage rate is 31.1, the lowest it's been in over a century. That equals roughly 31 marriages per 1,000 married women. Compare that to 1920, when the marriage rate was a staggering 92.3. Since 1970, the marriage rate has declined by almost 60 percent. "Marriage is no longer compulsory," said Dr. Susan Brown, co-director of the NCFMR. "It's just one of an array of options. Increasingly, many couples choose to cohabit and still others prefer to remain single." Furthermore, a woman's average age at first marriage is the highest it's been in over a century, at nearly 27 years old. "The age at first marriage for women and men is at a historic highpoint and has been increasing at a steady pace," states Dr. Wendy Manning, co-director of the Center. There has also been a dramatic increase in the proportion of women who are separated or divorced. In 1920, less than 1 percent of women held that distinction. Today, that number is 15 percent. "The divorce rate remains high in the U.S., and individuals today are less likely to remarry than they were in the past," reports Brown. The marriage rate has declined for all racial and ethnic groups, but the greatest decline is among African Americans. Similarly, the education divide in marriage has grown. In the last 50 years there have been only modest changes in the percentage of women married among the college educated and the greatest declines among women without a high school diploma. Researchers used data from the National Vital Statistics "100 Years of Marriage and Divorce Statistics United States 1867-1967," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Warring Couples Want: Power, Not Apologies

The most common thing that couples want from each other during a conflict is not an apology, but a willingness to relinquish power, according to a new Baylor University study.

Giving up power comes in many forms, among them giving a partner more independence, admitting faults, showing respect and being willing to compromise. The study is published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

"It's common for partners to be sensitive to how to share power and control when making decisions in their relationship," said researcher Keith Sanford, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University's College of Arts & Sciences.

Following closely behind the desire for shared control was the wish for the partner to show more of an investment in the relationship through such ways as sharing intimate thoughts or feelings, listening, and sharing chores and activities, Sanford said.

The research results are based on two studies of married or cohabitating people and build upon previous research by Sanford. Earlier studies of more than 3,500 married people found that there are just two basic types of underlying concerns that couples experience during conflicts: "perceived threat," in which a person thinks that his or her status is threatened by a critical or demanding partner; and "perceived neglect," in which an individual sees a partner as being disloyal or inattentive and showing a lack of investment in the relationship.

In the first of the new studies, 455 married participants (ages 18 to 77, with marriages ranging from less than one year to 55 years) were asked to independently list desired resolutions to a single current or ongoing conflict -- anything from a minor disagreement or misunderstanding to a big argument. From those answers, 28 individual categories were identified, which researchers organized into six all-encompassing types of desired resolution.

After relinquished power, the desired behaviors from one's partner -- from most to least common -- were:

• To show investment

• To stop adversarial behavior

• To communicate more

• To give affection

• To make an apology

"We definitely respond to whether we gain or lose status," Sanford said. "When we feel criticized, we are likely to have underlying concerns about a perceived threat to status, and when that happens, we usually want a partner simply to disengage and back off."

In a second study, participants completed a 28-item questionnaire measuring how much people wanted each of the categories of desired resolution that were identified in the first study. This study included 498 participants (ages ranging from 19 to 81, with length of marriage ranging from less than one year to 51 years). They did not take part in the first study but were in committed relationships. The findings were consistent with the first study results, Sanford said.

"The things couples want from each other during conflicts will depend on their underlying concerns, and to resolve conflicts, they may need to use different tactics to address different underlying concerns," he said. "The husband might buy flowers, and that might be helpful if his partner has a concern involving perceived neglect. But if the partner has a concern involving perceived threat, then the flowers won't do much to address the issue."

*Sanford has developed a free interactive internet program for couples titled the "Couple Conflict Consultant" at www.pairbuilder.com The program provides a personalized assessment of 14 areas of conflict resolution and a large resource bank of information and recommendations for couples.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Treatment helps sex stage a comeback after menopause

A satisfying sex life is an important contributor to older adults' quality of life, but the sexual pain that can come after menopause can rob women and their partners of that satisfaction. Treatment can help restore it, shows a global survey including some 1,000 middle-aged North American men and women, published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). Sexual pain at this stage in a woman's life is usually the result of the typical drying and thinning of tissues in and around the vagina after menopause, called vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA), coupled with a decrease in sexual activity. Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers, vaginal estrogen, and ospemifene, a recently approved oral drug that is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), can all be used to treat it. Known as Clarifying Vaginal Atrophy's Impact on Sex and Relationships (CLOSER), the survey was commissioned by Novo Nordisk, the maker of a vaginal estrogen treatment. It included postmenopausal women volunteers age 55 to 65 who had VVA and their male partners. This part of CLOSER looked at how treatment with vaginal estrogen affected their sex lives. Before treatment, a majority of these women (58%) said they had been avoiding intimacy because of the pain, and 68% said they had lost their desire because of it. An even higher percentage of the men (78%) thought their partner's vaginal discomfort caused them to avoid intimacy. About a third of the men and women had stopped having sex altogether. After treatment, a majority of women and men reported sex was less painful for them and their partner, and more than 40% of the women and men said sex was more satisfying. Twenty-nine percent of the women and 34% of the men said their sex life had improved. Treatment also had a positive impact on the women's self esteem. About a third felt more optimistic about the future of their sex life, and a similar number felt more connected to their partners. "There is no need for a woman's quality of life to decline because of VVA," said NAMS Executive Director Margery L.S. Gass, MD. Many women get relief with vaginal lubricants and moisturizers and regular sexual activity or the use of vaginal dilators. Vaginal estrogen, in the form of creams, tablets, or rings, is a common therapy and is appealing for women who cannot or choose not to take oral hormones, since absorption into the bloodstream is minimal. Women who have had breast or uterine cancer are encouraged to discuss the pros and cons of different treatments with their oncologist. The SERM offers an alternative for women who choose not to use any oral or vaginal hormone therapy.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Women Reject Sexually Promiscuous Peers When Making Female Friends

College-aged women judge promiscuous female peers – defined by bedding 20 sexual partners by their early 20s – more negatively than more chaste women and view them as unsuitable for friendship, finds a study by Cornell University developmental psychologists. Notably, participants’ preference for less sexually active women as friends remained even when they personally reported liberal attitudes about casual sex or a high number of lifetime lovers. Men’s views, on the other hand, were less uniform – favoring the sexually permissive potential friend, the non-permissive one or showing no preference for either when asked to rate them on 10 different friendship attributes. Men’s perceptions were also more dependent on their own promiscuity: Promiscuous men favored less sexually experienced men in just one measure – when they viewed other promiscuous men as a potential threat to steal their own girlfriend. The findings suggest that though cultural and societal attitudes about casual sex have loosened in recent decades, women still face a double standard that shames “slutty” women and celebrates “studly” men, said lead author Zhana Vrangalova, a Cornell graduate student in the field of human development. The study, titled “Birds of a Feather? Not When it Comes to Sexual Permissiveness” and published in the early online edition of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, reports that such social isolation may place promiscuous women at greater risk for poor psychological and physical health outcomes. Study: http://bit.ly/18Dm7C9 “For sexually permissive women, they are ostracized for being ‘easy,’ whereas men with a high number of sexual partners are viewed with a sense of accomplishment,” Vrangalova said. “What surprised us in this study is how unaccepting promiscuous women were of other promiscuous women when it came to friendships – these are the very people one would think they could turn to for support.” She added that prior research shows that men often view promiscuous women as unsuitable for long-term romantic relationships, leaving these women outside of many social circles. “The effect is that these women are really isolated,” Vrangalova said. She suggested future research to determine whom they could befriend – perhaps straight or gay men who would be accepting of their behaviors. For the study, 751 college students provided information about their past sexual experience and their views on casual sex. They read a near-identical vignette about a male or female peer, with the only difference being the character’s number of lifetime sexual partners (two or 20). Researchers asked them to rate the person on a range of friendship factors, including warmth, competence, morality, emotional stability and overall likability. Across all female participants, women – regardless of their own promiscuity – viewed sexually permissive women more negatively on nine of ten friendship attributes, judging them more favorably only on their outgoingness. Permissive men only identified two measures, mate guarding and dislike of sexuality, where they favored less sexually active men as friends, showing no preference or favoring the more promiscuous men on the eight other variables; even more sexually modest men preferred the non-permissive potential friend in only half of all variables. The authors posit that evolutionary concerns may be leading men and women to disapprove of their bed-hopping peers as friends. They may actually be seeking to guard their mates from a threat to their relationship, Vrangalova said. In the case of promiscuous women rejecting other women with a high number of sexual partners, Vrangalova suggested that they may be seeking to distance themselves from any stigma that is attached to being friends with such women. The authors report that the findings could aid parents, teachers, counselors, doctors and others who work with young people who may face social isolation due to their sexual activity.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Meeting online leads to happier, more enduring marriages

More than a third of marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online, according to new research at the University of Chicago, which also found that online couples have happier, longer marriages. Although the study did not determine why relationships that started online were more successful, the reasons may include the strong motivations of online daters, the availability of advance screening, and the sheer volume of opportunities online. "These data suggest that the Internet may be altering the dynamics and outcomes of marriage itself," said the study's lead author, John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago. The results were published in the paper, "Marital Satisfaction and Breakups Differ Across Online and Offline Meeting Venues," in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of June 3 to 7. Meeting online has become an increasingly common way to find a partner, with opportunities arising through social networks, exchanges of email, instant messages, multi-player games and online communities. The research shows that couples who met online were more likely to have higher marital satisfaction and lower rates of marital breakups than relationships that began in face-to-face meetings. Marriage breakups were reported in about 6 percent of the people who met online, compared with 7.6 percent of the people who met offline. Marriages for people who met online reported a mean score of 5.64 on a satisfaction survey, compared with a score of 5.48 for people who met offline. The survey was based on questions about their happiness with their marriage and degree of affection, communication and love for each other. For the study, Cacioppo led a team that examined the results of a representative sample of 19,131 people who responded to a survey by Harris Interactive about their marriages and satisfaction. The study found a wide variety of venues, both online and offline, where people met. About 45 percent met through an online dating site. People who met online were more likely to be older (30 to 39 is the largest age group represented); employed and had a higher income. The group was diverse racially and ethnically. People who met offline found marriage partners at various venues including work, school, church, social gatherings, clubs and bars, and places of worship. Among the least successful marriages were those in which people met at bars, through blind dates and in virtual worlds (where individuals interact in online spaces via avatars), the researchers found. Relationships that start online may benefit from selectivity and the focused nature of online dating, the authors said. The differences in marital outcomes from online and offline meetings persisted after controlling for demographic differences, but "it is possible that individuals who met their spouse online may be different in personality, motivation to form a long-term marital relationship, or some other factor," said Cacioppo. Meeting online also may provide a larger pool of prospective marriage partners, along with advance screening in the case of dating services. And although deception often occurs online, studies suggest that people are relatively honest in online dating encounters; the lies tend to be minor misrepresentations of weight or height. "Marital outcomes are influenced by a variety of factors. Where one meets their spouse is only one contributing factor, and the effects of where one meets one's spouse are understandably quite small and do not hold for everyone," Cacioppo said. "The results of this study are nevertheless encouraging, given the paradigm shift in terms of how Americans are meeting their spouses."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cougars, sugar daddies more myth than reality

Those with older or younger spouses tend to have lower earnings, less education Despite the popular image of the rich older man or woman supporting an attractive younger spouse, a new study shows those married to younger or older mates have on average lower earnings, lower cognitive abilities, are less educated and less attractive than couples of similar ages. "Hugh Hefner is an outlier," said Hani Mansour, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with Terra McKinnish, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. "Our results call into question the conventional wisdom regarding differently-aged couples." The study, published online last week in the Review of Economics and Statistics, showed that those married to older or younger spouses scored negatively in key areas like education, occupational wages, appearance and cognitive skills. The researchers did not give a range of how much older or younger a spouse had to be to see these effects. It simply found that the greater the age difference, the higher the negative indicators. The economists examined U.S. Census Bureau data from 1960 through 2000 looking at age at first marriage, completed education, occupational wages, and earnings. They also used the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to measure cognitive skills and the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to gauge physical attractiveness. Their findings largely reflect the different networks that lower or higher ability individuals belong to. Those attending four-year colleges interact more with people of about the same age. After graduation, they and their peers often enter careers with upward mobility at a time when people tend to marry. By contrast, those who attend community colleges or work in low-skilled jobs with little chance of advancement are more likely to interact with more widely diverse age groups, increasing their chances of marrying someone significantly younger or older, the study said. "It really depends on who your social network is," Mansour said. "People with lower earning potential are in networks that are more age diverse." The study also found that men married to younger or older spouses made less money than those married to women of a similar age. In the 1980 Census, for example, men married to women eight or more years younger or older earned on average $3,495 less per year than men married to women no more than a year older or younger. At the same time, women married to differently-aged spouses made more money than their mates but that was due to working more hours, not earning higher wages. A battery of tests conducted in high school measured verbal, math and arithmetic reasoning skills. Those married to differently-aged spouses scored lower on the tests. Men with spouses at least eight years younger scored on average 8.4 points less than those who married women of a similar age. Women had less drastic drops in their scores. Physical attractiveness was determined by interviewers conducting the Add Health survey. They rated their subjects on a scale of one to five with one being `very unattractive' and five being `very attractive.' "Overall, the estimates indicate that individuals married to differently-aged spouses are less attractive than those married to similarly-aged spouses, with the possible exception of men married to older women," the study said. Mansour said the study shed light on how and why people marry who they do. The researchers also found that despite Hollywood portrayals to the contrary, there is nothing new about older women searching for younger men to marry. "We really didn't find any evidence of a new cougar phenomenon," he said. "Although their share has slightly increased over time, cougars have been among us since the 1960s." The real trend, he said, is that people of similar ages are increasingly marrying each other. "The benefits from marriage might be changing. When you are close in age you can do things together," he said. "You can have children when both parties want to, retire at the same time and grow old together"

Monday, April 15, 2013

In sex, happiness hinges on keeping up with the peers

Sex apparently is like income: People are generally happy when they keep pace with the Joneses and they're even happier if they get a bit more. That's one finding of Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, who recently published the results of a study of how sexual frequency corresponds with happiness. As has been well documented with income, the happiness linked with having more sex can rise or fall depending on how individuals believe they measure up to their peers, Wadsworth found. His paper, "Sex and the Pursuit of Happiness: How Other People's Sex Lives are Related to Our Sense of Well-Being," was published in the February edition of Social Indicators Research. Using national survey data and statistical analyses, Wadsworth found that people reported steadily higher levels of happiness as they reported steadily higher sexual frequency. But he also found that even after controlling for their own sexual frequency, people who believed they were having less sex than their peers were unhappier than those who believed they were having as much or more than their peers. "There's an overall increase in sense of well-being that comes with engaging in sex more frequently, but there's also this relative aspect to it," he said. "Having more sex makes us happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier." Wadsworth analyzed data from the General Social Survey, which has been taking the "pulse of America" since 1972. All respondents in all years are asked whether they are "very happy, pretty happy or not too happy." The survey has included questions about sexual frequency since 1989. Wadsworth's sample included 15,386 people who were surveyed between 1993 and 2006. After controlling for many other factors, including income, education, marital status, health, age, race and other characteristics, respondents who reported having sex at least two to three times a month were 33 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness than those who reported having no sex during the previous 12 months. The happiness effect appears to rise with frequency. Compared to those who had no sex in the previous year, those reporting a once-weekly frequency were 44 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness. Those reporting having sex two to three times a week are 55 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness. But while personal income can be inferred by a neighbor's flashy new car or home renovation, sex is a more cloistered activity. So how do, say, men or women in their 20s know how frequently their peers have sex? Though sex is a private matter, the mass media and other sources of information provide clues. For instance, Wadsworth noted, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men's Health, Men's Journal and The AARP Magazine — with a combined circulation of 30 million—frequently report the results of their own or others' sex surveys. Television and film depictions might also play a role, and, Wadsworth writes, "there is plenty of evidence that information concerning normative sexual behavior is learned through discussions within peer groups and friendship networks." As a result of this knowledge, if members of a peer group are having sex two to three times a month but believe their peers are on a once-weekly schedule, their probability of reporting a higher level of happiness falls by about 14 percent, Wadsworth found. Wadsworth is also a research associate at CU-Boulder's Institute of Behavioral Science and his research interests include the general study of happiness. He noted that the data do not necessarily prove that social comparisons cause the effects he observed. However, "I can't think of a better explanation for why how much sex other people are having would influence a person's happiness," he said. The way most people engage in social comparison can be problematic, he noted. "We're usually not looking down and therefore thinking of ourselves as better off, but we're usually looking up and therefore feeling insufficient and inadequate." On the other hand, people are social creatures and any sense of self or identity is dependent on others. In his introductory sociology classes, Wadsworth asks students to write three adjectives, any adjectives, to describe themselves. "And then I ask them, 'Do your adjectives have any meaning whatsoever if you're alone on a desert island, in the sense that there's no one to compare yourself to?' " Regardless of the adjective — attractive, smart, funny, poor — "these things are meaningful only if there's some sense of what other people are like," he said. "As such, we can only be wealthy if others are poor, or sexually active if others are inactive." ### Read more about Wadsworth's study soon in Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine at http://artsandsciences.colorado.edu/magazine/.

Friday, April 12, 2013

How Do Alcohol and Relationship Type Affect Women’s Risk Judgment of Partners?

Understanding how women judge male partners’ sexual risk is important to developing risk reduction programs. Applying a cognitive mediation model of sexual decision making, our study investigated effects of alcohol consumption (control, low dose, high dose) and relationship type (disrupted vs. new) on women’s risk judgments of a male sexual partner in three sexual risk conditions (low, unknown, and high). 328 participants projected themselves into a story depicting a sexual interaction. The story was paused to assess primary appraisals of sexual and relationship potential and secondary appraisals of pleasure, health, and relationship concerns, followed by sexual risk judgments. In all risk conditions, alcohol and disrupted relationship increased sexual potential, whereas disrupted relationship increased relationship potential in the low- and high-risk conditions. In the unknown-risk condition, women in the no-alcohol, new relationship condition had the lowest primary sexual appraisals. In all conditions, sexual appraisals predicted all secondary appraisals, but primary relationship appraisals predicted only secondary relationship appraisals. Secondary health appraisals led to increased risk judgments, whereas relationship appraisals predicted lower risk judgments.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How common is 'The John Next Door'?

While the media is replete with examples of "normal" men who seek out prostitutes regularly, how common are prostitute-seeking men and how much do they differ from men in the normal population? According to a new comparison study by Dr. Martin A. Monto, University of Portland, and Dr. Christine Milrod, only about 14% of men across the U.S. have ever paid for sex in their lives and only 1% of those men had done so in the previous year. In addition, the majority of these men do not possess any "peculiar" qualities that distinguish them from the normal population. The study was published in the SAGE journal International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology (IJO). "Our findings clearly contradict the 'john next door' notion perpetuated by some media," Dr. Milrod stated. "While it is noteworthy to recognize that the 1% of adult men who paid for sex in 2010 still result in a large number of customers, there is no credible evidence to support the idea that hiring sex workers is a common or conventional aspect of masculine sexual behavior among men in the United States." The researchers also found that men who actively seek out prostitutes do not possess any "peculiar" qualities that would differentiate them from men in the normal population. In fact, arrested customers are only slightly less likely to be married, slightly more likely to be working full-time, slightly more sexually liberal, and slightly less likely to be White than men who have not been clients of prostitutes. A small group of highly active customers, such as those who were never arrested and who sought out sex workers listed on a prostitute review website, were found to differ substantially from men who do not pay for sex. A substantial portion of these married White men earn over 120K annually, have graduate degrees, and are more sexually liberal than any of the other groups in the study. Additionally, they do not exhibit any mental impairment. Dr. Milrod discussed the implications of this finding, "Privileged men, such as our wealthier sample of review website clients, are generally not marginalized or threatened due to their sexual behavior. In contrast, customers associated with street prostitution are likely to have fewer financial and social resources and it could be argued that these men are explicitly targeted by law enforcement in marginalized areas or transitional neighborhoods. The emphasis on teaching about 'sex addiction' and 'healthy relationships' to arrested men further supports the notion that customers of street prostitutes are endowed with some form of psychopathology that needs reorientation toward more accepted forms of sexual relations. The focus on treatment fails to separate paying for sex and being psychologically impaired."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Men May Have Natural Aversion to Adultery with Friends’ Wives

Findings about testosterone levels illuminate how humans evolved to form alliances After outgrowing teenage infatuations with the girl next door, adult males seem to be biologically designed to avoid amorous attractions to the wife next door, according to a University of Missouri study that found adult males’ testosterone levels dropped when they were interacting with the marital partner of a close friend. Understanding the biological mechanisms that keep men from constantly competing for each others’ wives may shed light on how people manage to cooperate on the levels of neighborhoods, cities and even globally. “Although men have many chances to pursue a friend’s mate, propositions for adultery are relatively rare on a per opportunity basis,” said Mark Flinn, professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. “Men’s testosterone levels generally increase when they are interacting with a potential sexual partner or an enemy’s mate. However, our findings suggest that men’s minds have evolved to foster a situation where the stable pair bonds of friends are respected.” Flinn says that these findings might help solve global problems. “Ultimately, our findings about testosterone levels illuminate how people have evolved to form alliances,” said Flinn. “Using that biological understanding of human nature, we can look for ways to solve global problems. The same physiological mechanisms that allow villages of families to coexist and cooperate can also allow groups like NATO and the U.N. to coordinate efforts to solve common problems. The more we view the Earth as a single community of people, the greater our ability to solve mutual threats, such as climate change.” Evolutionarily, men who were constantly betraying their friends’ trust and endangering the stability of families may have caused a survival disadvantage for their entire communities, according to Flinn. A community of men who didn’t trust each other would be brittle and vulnerable to attack and conquest. The costs of an untrustworthy reputation would have outweighed the benefits of having extra offspring with a friend’s conjugal companion. For example, a cautionary tale of the dangers of adultery can be found in the myth of Camelot. Sir Lancelot betrayed King Arthur by seducing Guinevere. Soon after, the fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table disintegrated and the kingdom fell. The alliance of powerful males could not hold once trust had been lost. The study “Hormonal Mechanisms for Regulation of Aggression in Human Coalitions” was published in the journal Human Nature. Co-authors were Davide Ponzi of MU’s Division of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science and Michael Muehlenbein of Indiana University.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We're emotionally distant and that's just fine by me

Closer relationships aren't necessarily better relationships - More important is whether your degree of closeness matches your desires When it comes to having a lasting and fulfilling relationship, common wisdom says that feeling close to your romantic partner is paramount. But a new study finds that it's not how close you feel that matters most, it's whether you are as close as you want to be, even if that's really not close at all. "Our study found that people who yearn for a more intimate partnership and people who crave more distance are equally at risk for having a problematic relationship," says the study's lead author, David M. Frost, PhD, of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "If you want to experience your relationship as healthy and rewarding, it's important that you find a way to attain your idealized level of closeness with your partner." Results will be published in the April issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and will also appear ahead of print online on February 13. A sample of 732 men and women, living across the U.S. and Canada, completed three yearly surveys online. They answered questions about relationship closeness, relationship satisfaction, commitment, break-up thoughts, and symptoms of depression. Current and ideal closeness were assessed by choosing from six sets of overlapping circles; varying degrees of overlap signified degrees of closeness. This well-established psychological measure of closeness is known as Inclusion of Other in Self and indicates a couple's "we-ness" or shared identity, values, viewpoints, resources, and personality traits. More than half of respondents (57%) reported feeling too much distance between themselves and their partner; 37% were content with the level of closeness in their relationship; and a small minority (5%) reported feeling too close. The degree of difference between a respondent's actual and ideal—their "closeness discrepancy"—correlated with poorer relationship quality and more frequent symptoms of depression. The effect was the same whether the respondent reported feeling "too close for comfort" or "not close enough." Surprisingly, the negative effects of closeness discrepancies were evident regardless of how close people felt to their partners; what mattered was the discrepancy, not the closeness. Over the two-year study period, some respondents' experiences of closeness became aligned with their ideals. In such cases, their relationship quality and mental health improved. The inverse was also true. Those who increasingly felt "too close" or "not close enough" over time were more likely to grow unhappy in their relationships and ultimately break up with their partners. Closeness discrepancies could shape new approaches to psychotherapy, both for couples and individuals, because it takes seriously real differences in the amount of closeness people want in their relationships, says Dr. Frost, a psychologist and professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School. "It's best not to make too many assumptions about what constitutes a healthy relationship," he says. "Rather, we need to hear from people about how close they are in their relationships and how that compares to how close they'd ideally like to be." Ongoing studies are looking at the issue of closeness discrepancies from both sides of a relationship to see how someone's sense of relationship closeness might differ from their partners, whether someone's closeness discrepancy affects their partners, and how it affects their sex life. The concept could also be extended to non-romantic relationships such as co-workers, parent-child, and patient-provider interactions.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A brief writing intervention helps spouses adopt a more objective outlook on marital conflict

Marital satisfaction -- so critical to health and happiness – generally declines over time. A brief writing intervention that helps spouses adopt a more objective outlook on marital conflict could be the answer. New Northwestern University research shows that this writing intervention, implemented through just three, seven-minute writing exercises administered online, prevents couples from losing that loving feeling. "I don't want it to sound like magic, but you can get pretty impressive results with minimal intervention," said Eli Finkel, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at Northwestern. The study involved 120 couples, half assigned the reappraisal intervention and the other not. Every four months for two years all spouses reported their relationship satisfaction, love, intimacy, trust, passion and commitment. They also provided a fact-based summary of the most significant disagreement they had experienced with their spouse in the preceding four months. The reappraisal writing task asked participants to think about their most recent disagreement with their partner from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. Replicating prior research, both groups exhibited declines in marital quality over Year 1. But for the spouses who experienced the reappraisal intervention -- who completed the writing exercise three times during Year 2 -- the decline in marital satisfaction was entirely eliminated. Although couples in the two conditions fought just as frequently about equally severe topics, the intervention couples were less distressed by these fights, which helped them sustain marital satisfaction. "Not only did this effect emerge for marital satisfaction, it also emerged for other relationship processes -- like passion and sexual desire -- that are especially vulnerable to the ravages of time," Finkel said. "And this isn't a dating sample. These effects emerged whether people were married for one month, 50 years or anywhere in between." This finding may be especially important given that low marital quality can have serious health implications, according to Finkel. Finkel cites data that among coronary artery bypass patients, those who experienced high marital satisfaction shortly after the surgery were three times more likely to be alive 15 years later than those who experienced low marital satisfaction. "Marriage tends to be healthy for people, but the quality of the marriage is much more important than its mere existence," Finkel said. "Having a high-quality marriage is one of the strongest predictors of happiness and health. From that perspective, participating in a seven-minute writing exercise three times a year has to be one of the best investments married people can make."

Psychological and Sexual Costs of Income Comparison in Marriage

As the percentage of wives outearning their husbands grows, the traditional social norm of the male breadwinner is challenged. The upward income comparison of the husband may cause psychological distress that affects partners’ mental and physical health in ways that affect decisions on marriage, divorce, and careers. This article studies this impact through sexual and mental health problems. Men outearned by their wives are more likely to use erectile dysfunction medication than their male breadwinner counterparts, even when this inequality is small. Breadwinner wives suffer increased insomnia/anxiety medication usage, with similar effects for men. There were no effects for unmarried couples or for men who earned less than their fiancĂ©e prior to marriage.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New study reveals sex to be pleasurable with or without use of a condom or lubricant

A new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals that within a nationally representative study of American men and women, sex was rated as highly arousing and pleasurable whether or not condoms and/or lubricants were used. Condoms and lubricants are commonly used by both women and men when they have sex. Led by Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH and Michael Reece, PhD, MPH, of the School of Public Health-Bloomington, Indiana University, researchers reviewed a nationally representative study of men and women in the United States ages 18-59 to assess characteristics of condom and lubricant use during participants' most recent sexual event, and the relationship of their condom and lubricant use to their ratings of sexual quality. Data were from the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which involved the administration of an online questionnaire to a nationally representative probability sample of the U.S. adults. Results showed that men and women consistently rate sex as highly arousing and pleasurable with few differences based on condom or lubricant use. More than twice as many women were unsure whether the condom was lubricated (26.6% vs. 11.4%) or from what material it was made (23.6% vs. 8.9%). "This may be because men are more likely than women to purchase condoms and to apply condoms," said Dr. Herbenick. "However, it's important for more women to become familiar with the condoms they use with their partner so that they can make choices that enhance the safety and pleasure of their sexual experiences." Additionally, no significant differences were found in regard to men's ratings of the ease of their erections based on condom and lubricant use. "The U.S. continues to grapple with high rates of sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and unintended pregnancies," Dr. Herbenick notes. "We need to understand how people make choices about the products they use (or avoid using) and how these products contribute to the safety and pleasurable aspects of their sexual experiences. This is particularly important as the products themselves evolve and become more mainstream in American society. We also need to understand what men and women know, or don't know, about the products they use so that we can better target public health education messages to individuals and groups." "The epidemiologic studies assessing human sexual function and behavior in the US that were started 60 years ago by Kinsey are continued now by Herbenick and Reece. Gathering sexual data regarding condom use is highly relevant," explained Irwin Goldstein, MD, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "Understanding current condom use offers health care providers an opportunity to educate those people uncomfortable with condoms but for whom lack of use may lead to significant sexually transmitted infection health risk." ### This study was funded by Church & Dwight, Inc., the maker of Trojan Brand condoms and vibrators.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New study examines on/off relationships and 'sex with an ex' among teenagers and young adults

A new study finds that nearly half of older teenagers and young adults break up and get back together with previous dating partners and over half of this group have sex as part of the reconciliation process. This study was recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, a SAGE journal. Researchers Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Wendy Manning, Peggy Giordano and Monica Longmore studied data on 792 daters and cohabiters ages 17 to 24, also known as "emerging adults." The researchers studied two relationship patterns specifically – reconciliation with an ex, or breaking up and getting back together, and "sex with an ex," when couples break up, yet remain sexually involved. Study authors found that approximately 44% of emerging adults who had been in a romantic relationship in the past two years had experienced at least one reconciliation with an ex romantic partner and 53% of those who reported reconciliations also reported having sex with their ex. Additionally, racial minorities in particular were even more likely to experience reconciliation or sexual relationships with previous romantic partners. The study authors discussed the implications of reconciliations with previous romantic partners: "Emerging adults who reconcile may be prone to a behavior pattern that involves cycling through relationship formation… Furthermore, having sex with an ex may be problematic because former partners can have difficulty moving on from an old relationship or building new romantic attachments." ### Find out more by reading the study "Relationship Churning in Emerging Adulthood: On/Off Relationships and Sex with an Ex" in Journal of Adolescent Research, available free for a limited time here: http://jar.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/10/05/0743558412464524.full.pdf+html

Monday, January 21, 2013

Poor sleep can leave romantic partners feeling unappreciated

Spouses and other romantic partners often complain about feeling unappreciated, and a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests poor sleep may play a hidden role. A UC Berkeley study looking into how sleep habits impact gratitude found that sleep deprivation can leave couples "too tired to say thanks" and can make one or the other partner feel taken for granted. "Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner's," said Amie Gordon, a UC Berkeley psychologist and lead investigator of the study, which she conducted with UC Berkeley psychologist Serena Chen. Gordon will present her findings this Saturday (Jan. 19) at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychologists in New Orleans. The results shed new light on the emotional interdependence of sleep partners, offering compelling evidence that a bad night's sleep leaves people less attuned to their partner's moods and sensitivities. For many couples, nighttime can turn into a battleground due to loud snoring, sheet-tugging or one partner tapping on a laptop while the other tosses and turns. "You may have slept like a baby, but if your partner didn't, you'll probably both end up grouchy," Gordon said. A sixth year Ph.D. student who focuses on the psychology of close relationships, Gordon noted that many people claim to be too busy to sleep, even priding themselves on how few hours of slumber they can get by on. The observation inspired her, in part, to study how a lack of zzzs might be affecting love lives. More than 60 couples, with ages ranging from 18 to 56, participated in each of Gordon's studies. In one experiment, participants kept a diary of their sleep patterns and how a good or bad night's rest affected their appreciation of their significant other. In another experiment, they were videotaped engaged in problem-solving tasks. Those who had slept badly the night before showed less appreciation for their partner. Overall, the results showed poor sleepers had a harder time counting their blessings and valuing their partners. How to remedy that? "Make sure to say to say 'thanks' when your partner does something nice," suggested Gordon. "Let them know you appreciate them."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prior Relationship Experiences Shape Romantic Partnerships

Partners each bring a suitcase of prior experiences to a relationship, which may influence what happens in their current relationship, says Katherine (KC) Haydon, assistant professor of psychology and education. Haydon’s research examines the developmental origins of how people behave in their closest relationships. One central question in her work is how romantic partners’ individual developmental histories affect what happens in their current relationship—how they resolve conflicts, regulate and express emotions, and support each other. She also studies how close relationships with parents, friends, and romantic partners contribute to developmental outcomes, such as navigating the transition to adulthood. In addition, Haydon studies the increasingly common “hook-up culture” among younger people.

People's preferences for the height of a partner persist despite other factors important in choosing a mate

Finding Mr. or Ms. Right is a complicated process, and choosing a mate may involve compromising on less important factors like their height. However, research published January 16 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Gert Stulp and colleagues from the University of Groningen, Netherlands suggests that despite the many other factors involved, people's preferences for a partner's height are reflected in real couples in the UK. Given the average heights of men and women in typical Western populations, two out of every hundred couples should comprise a woman who is taller than her male companion. However, such couples are seen much less frequently than this. Previous studies show that men generally prefer to pair with women shorter than themselves, and women prefer men who are taller than they are. However, short women and tall men appear to prefer larger height differences with their partner, whereas tall women and short men prefer smaller differences in height. These trends have previously been studied only in terms of preferences or expectations. In the current study, the authors analyze to what extent these preferences translate into actual partner choices. Their results suggest that all of these trends do exist in a sample of over 10,000 couples in the UK, and the difference in height between a man and woman in a couple tends to be less than 8 inches. However, the patterns observed in actual couples were not seen as frequently as would be expected based on people's preferences from previous studies. According to the authors, their results suggest that "while preferences for partner height generally translate into actual pairing, they do so only modestly."

Popping the question is his job

When it comes to marriage proposals, young men and women hold fast to traditional views Would women rather "pop the question?" Apparently not. With marriage proposals in the air around the new year, researchers at UC Santa Cruz report that both women and men tend to hold traditional views when it comes to marriage proposals. Young adults were asked about their personal preferences for marriage traditions. Overwhelmingly, both men and women said they would want the man in a relationship to propose marriage. A substantial majority of women also responded that they would want to take their husband's last name. In fact, not one of 136 men surveyed believed "I would definitely want my partner to propose" and not a single woman said she "would definitely want to propose." "I was surprised at how strong the preference was," said Rachael D. Robnett, a doctoral candidate in psychology at UC Santa Cruz. Robnett surveyed 277 undergraduates ages 17 to 26. She found that a substantial majority believes strongly that a man should propose marriage and a woman should take her husband's name. Robnett's findings are reported in "Girls Don't Propose! Ew" published in the January issue of the Journal of Adolescent Research. Robnett said she expected some preference for traditional engagement and marriage roles, but not at such a high level, particularly among young people. The survey was conducted in 2009-2010 among psychology majors or intended majors and was limited to heterosexual students. "Given the prevalence of liberal attitudes among students at the university where data collection took place it is striking that so many participants held traditional preferences," she writes. "Even more surprising is that many participants overtly state that their preferences were driven by a desire to adhere to gender-role traditions." Robnett said 68.4 percent of men answered, "I would definitely want to propose. Sixty-six percent of women answered "I would definitely want my partner too propose.” Nearly 15 percent of men answered, "I would kind of want to propose" and 16.9 percent said, "It doesn't matter who proposes." Among the 141 women surveyed, 22 percent said, "I would kind of want my partner to propose; 2.8 percent said they would "kind of want to propose" and 9.2 percent answered "it doesn't matter." On the surname question, Robnett found 60.2 percent of women were "very willing" or "somewhat willing" to take their husband's name. Only 6.4 percent were "very unwilling" and 11.3 percent "somewhat unwilling." Another 22 percent answered "neither willing nor unwilling." She also found the adherence to tradition is linked to "benevolent sexism," the assumption of traditional gender roles in which "men should protect, cherish, and provide for women." "On the surface it looks positive," Robnett said. "The problem is that benevolent sexism contributes to power differentials between women and men. The mindset underlying benevolent sexism is that women need men’s protection because they are the weaker gender. Also, people who endorse benevolent sexism tend to support traditional gender roles such as the belief that women should do most of the childcare even if both partners work. "Both men and women are raised to believe that aspects of benevolent sexism are desirable; it’s usually viewed as politeness or chivalry," she said. "This makes it hard for people to challenge, which is unfortunate because research shows it often does a disservice to women."

Drug abuse impairs sexual performance in men even after rehabilitation

-An article published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in the USA reveals that alcohol is the drug that most affects sexual arousal (erectile capacity). -In addition, the researchers observed that men did not improve their sexual performance when they stopped drinking alcohol. -The study included 905 men of which 550 had been diagnosed with alcohol, cocaine, cocaine and alcohol, heroin, marihuana and speedball (cocaine and heroin) addiction. Researchers at the University of Granada, Spain, and Santo Tomas University in Colombia have found that drug abuse negatively affects sexual performance in men even after years of abstinence. This finding contradicts other studies reporting that men spontaneously recovered their normal sexual performance at three weeks after quitting substance abuse. The results of this study have been published in the prestigious Journal of Sexual Medicine, the official journal of the International Society for Sexual Medicine. The authors of this paper are Pablo Vallejo Medina –a professor at Santo Tomas University, Colombia– and Juan Carlos Sierra, a professor at the University of Granada. In this study, the researchers assessed the sexual performance of 605 men, of which 550 had been diagnosed with alcohol, cocaine, cocaine and alcohol, heroin, marihuana and speedball (cocaine and heroin) addiction. The remaining 356 men were included as controls. Assessing Four Areas The researchers examined and evaluated four areas of sexual performance: sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, sexual arousal and orgasm. The study revealed that the study group had a moderately to significantly impaired sexual performance as compared to controls. Additionally, the researchers separately examined the effects of the different substances on sexuality. For instance, speedball and cocaine abuse prevailingly affect sexual pleasure, while they slightly affect sexual desire. Indeed, cocaine users have very high sexual desire during peak periods of drug abuse. Alcohol is the drug which most affects sexual arousal (erectile capacity). This is the first study to reveal the permanent effect of substance abuse on sexuality, even after long abstinence periods. Finally, orgasms are prevailingly impaired by heroin, cocaine, alcohol and speedball.