Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The attractiveness of a romantic partner can influence a person's desire to diet and seek a slim body


In today's appearance-driven world, body image can be a powerful influence on our choices and behaviors, especially related to dieting. That image is sometimes shaped or distorted by many factors, including mass media images, parents, relationships, even our moods.

New research from Florida State University finds another factor -- attractiveness of a romantic partner -- can be a driving force behind the desire to diet and seek a slim body, though that motivation contrasts sharply between men and women.

Doctoral student Tania Reynolds and Assistant Professor of Psychology Andrea Meltzer found that women evaluated as less attractive were more motivated to diet and be thin if their husbands were attractive.

"The results reveal that having a physically attractive husband may have negative consequences for wives, especially if those wives are not particularly attractive," Reynolds said.

That extra motivation to diet, however, did not exist among women judged more attractive than their husbands. As for men, their motivation to diet was low regardless of their wives' attractiveness or their own.

The study, published in the journal Body Image, offers productive insights about relationships in which a woman fears she'll fall short of her partner's expectations. Understanding the predictors that increase a woman's risk of developing eating disorders and other health problems could lead to earlier assistance.

"The research suggests there might be social factors playing a role in women's disordered eating," Reynolds said. "It might be helpful to identify women at risk of developing more extreme weight-loss behaviors, which have been linked to other forms of psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and dissatisfaction with life."

Meltzer added: "In order to better understand women's dieting motivations, the findings of this study highlight the value of adopting an approach that focuses on a couple's relationship."

The study advanced existing research from the Meltzer lab that found marriages tend to be more successful and satisfying when wives are more attractive than their husbands. It examined 113 newlywed couples -- married less than four months, average age late 20s, living in the Dallas area -- who agreed to be rated on their attractiveness.

Each participant completed a lengthy questionnaire focusing in part on their desire to diet or have a thin body. Some questions included, "I feel extremely guilty after eating," "I like my stomach to be empty," and "I'm terrified of gaining weight."

A full-body photograph was taken of every participant and rated on a scale of 1 to 10. Two teams of undergraduate evaluators studied the photos: one at Southern Methodist University in Texas focused on spouses' facial attractiveness, while another at FSU looked at body attractiveness. The evaluators varied in sex and ethnic makeup.

Reynolds said some research has shown women tend to overperceive just how thin their partners want them to be and, as a result, may inappropriately pursue dieting and a thin body.

"One way to help these women is for partners to be very reaffirming, reminding them, 'You're beautiful. I love you at any weight or body type,'" Reynolds said. "Or perhaps focusing on the ways they are a good romantic partner outside of attractiveness and emphasizing those strengths: 'I really value you because you're a kind, smart and supportive partner.'"

Reynolds thinks an interesting next step for research would be to explore whether women are more motivated to diet when they are surrounded by attractive female friends.

"If we understand how women's relationships affect their decision to diet and the social predictors for developing unhealthy eating behaviors," Reynolds said, "then we will be better able to help them."

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Men and women value different methods of resolving conflict between romantic partners



If a man wants to make amends with his girlfriend after an argument, he should dedicate quality time and shed a few tears while asking for forgiveness. However, these are not the best ways for a woman to make up with her boyfriend; men consider a kind gesture or receiving sexual favors as the best form of apology. This was revealed in a study led by T. Joel Wade of Bucknell University in the US. Overall, it was found that showing emotional commitment is the best way of reconciling a conflict between romantic partners, but that there are systematic differences in how men and women prefer this to be put into practice. The findings were published in Springer's journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.

The study was done in two parts. Participants were first asked via an online questionnaire to nominate specific actions that men and women engage in to reconcile with their partners after a fight. These were then grouped by the researchers into 21 categories of possible reconciliation behaviors. The options given by the participants in Study 1 were then given to an additional group of men and women to ascertain which methods were preferred (most effective).

It was found that men, compared to women, rated a partner doing nice gestures and giving sex/sexual favors as more effective. According to Wade, these findings are consistent with previous studies that showed that men prefer a partner who is sexually accessible.

"Women may thereby use sexual favors as a way to reconcile with their male partner," says Wade. "Doing so may communicate to their male partner that they are still sexually accessible and as such do not want to end the relationship."

It was further found that women held it in high regard when a partner spent time with them after a conflict, apologized and even cried to show their remorse.

"Women may rate spending time together more highly because this behavior signals a partner's willingness to invest effort and limited resources (e.g. time) into their romantic pair-bond," explains Wade. "Such actions by a man may signal the likelihood of a potentially high parental investment which women prefer."

Women also rated crying and apologizing as more effective methods of resolving conflict than men did. According to Wade this might be because women view male partners who do so as being in touch with their emotions, without being feminine. Tears are seen as an honest signal of grief about a rocky relationship.

"Women may find the act of their male partner apologizing to be an effective reconciliation tactic because it is viewed as an altruistic act. A man's apology may redirect the cost of romantic conflict to himself rather than to his partner and thereby demonstrate his ability to provide emotional support and incur personal costs for his partner," Wade explains.

The surprising trend in extramarital sex in America


America's generation gap is surfacing in a surprising statistic: rates of extramarital sex.

Older Americans are cheating on their spouses more than their younger counterparts, with 20 percent of married Americans over age 55 reporting they've engaged in extramarital sex. Just 14 percent of those under age 55 say they've cheated, according to Nicholas H. Wolfinger, a professor in the University of Utah's Department of Family and Consumer Studies.

The Institute for Family Studies on July 5, 2017, published Wolfinger's research brief "America's New Generation Gap in Extramarital Sex," which is based on analysis of data from the General Social Survey.

Wolfinger found that while the overall number of Americans who report having sex outside of marriage has held relatively steady at approximately 16 percent over the past 30 years, that trend has obscured a startling age-related difference.

Rates of extramarital sex by age have diverged since 2000, with increased cheating reported by people in their 50s and 60s, Wolfinger said. Most of these respondents were married between 20 years and 30 years.

But there may be more going on than lengthy marriages and midlife crises, he added. These older Americans also came of age in the wake of the sexual revolution and, over the course of their lifetimes, have had more sex partners compared to younger Americans.

Also, while a majority of Americans continue to disapprove of extramarital sex, attitudes have softened, particularly among older survey respondents.

Wolfinger observes that the General Social Survey asks respondents about extramarital sex, not explicitly adultery. This raises the possibility that the data reflect rising participation in polyamory or "ethical nonmonogamy," extramarital relationships conducted with the active permission of one's spouse.

"No matter how many polyamorists there are today, old-fashioned adultery seems to have risen among older Americans," Wolfinger said. And the consequences are plain.

"Even as overall divorce rates have fallen in recent decades, there has been a startling surge in 'grey divorce' among the middle-aged," he said. "Part of that story seems to be a corresponding increase in midlife adultery, which seems to be both the cause and the consequence of a failing marriage. The declining rates of extramarital sex among younger Americans seemingly portends a future of monogamous marriage. But the seeds sown by the sexual revolution continue to bear unanticipated fruit among older Americans."

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The full research brief is available at https://ifstudies.org/blog/americas-generation-gap-in-extramarital-sex