Jealousy Among Men and Women Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2690 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 11  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Jealousy among men and women has long been a topic of study in many sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and even anthropology, because jealousy is an emotion almost all humans feel at one time or another. This intense rush of emotion known as jealousy is one of the prime issues in many marriages and relationships. In fact, it is estimated that 20 to 30% of all murders involve jealousy (White and Mullen, 1989). Additionally, it is estimated that a third of all couples in marriage counseling have issues with jealousy (Brehm, 1985).

It has been argued by some theorists that men have evolved to be more jealous then women, because jealousy promotes the male's genetic fitness. This paper will first examine jealousy as a whole, and its causes. Then, this paper will examine research on the concept that men are more jealous than women, and will show that while there is evidence for this theory, there is also substantial evidence that women and men are equally jealous.

First, it is necessary to define jealousy on a psychological level. Jealousy is considered to be experienced when something a person has is taken away or is threatened by someone else (Merriam-Webster, 2004). According to psychologists, it is this fear of loss, either of the item or of the competition for the item, that emits powerful emotions such as hurt, anger, frustration, and shame (Word Reference.com, 2004). These emotions combined form an umbrella emotion we term "jealousy."

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Historically, jealously has been seen to be a mostly male trait. Over time, jealousy was recognized as a human trait, but it was theorized that men and women were jealous over different aspects of relationships. Men were thought to be jealous over sexual relations, while women were more likely to be jealous over emotional relations. Most studies reveled that men were feeling rival jealousy, in that they wanted to know if their competitor was good in bed. Conversely, women were more concerned about whether or not the male "loved" the other woman (Whitehouse, 2003).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Jealousy Among Men and Women Has Long Assignment

The origins of jealousy have long been examined in order to determine which sex is more prone to jealousy. Some theorists believe that there are distinct evolutionary reasons for males to be jealous. For example, males in history, before the discovery of blood testing, could not be sure if a child produced was theirs. Thus, the males would want the females to not have relations with other men, in order to ensure their bloodline (Whitehouse, 2003).

Gary Brase, a researcher at the University of Sunderland, United Kingdom, examined jealousy in a cross-cultural study, and found evidence toward the theory that jealousy is an evolutionary trait. Brase found that jealousy in males in different countries appeared to be highly linked to the fertility rate in those countries. Men in countries with high fertility rates such as Brazil showed a higher rate of jealousy over sexual relations than men in countries with lower fertility rates, such as Japan. According to Brase, this is evidence that jealousy in men is a trait that was developed through evolution, in order to ensure the future of the male's genetic makeup (Whitehouse, 2003).

On the other hand, women also have an evolutionary need for jealousy. According to a 1992 study by Buss and colleagues, women see their reproductive success as directly related to the resources and assistance of the offspring's father. Without those resources, these researchers state, women feel as though their ability to successfully raise the offspring is limited. Thus, while men are threatened by sexual infidelity, since it is this that would threaten their ability to reproduce, the women are threatened by emotional infidelity. A male with many partners is still able to give a woman a child. However, if that male then abandons the woman and child for another, the woman would be unable to provide as well. The result is that women feel more jealousy and more threatened with emotional infidelity, since it is this emotional connection that keeps the male and his resources near the offspring (Buss, et al., 1992).

This fundamental difference in jealousy has been the basis for theories that men are more jealous than women. Since women rely on the male to impregnate them, and since they can choose their partners, they are able to control who supplies the genetic material for their offspring. Males, however, rely on the female to reproduce. Thus, while they can have sexual relations with the female, they cannot assure that the female is not having sexual relations with another. This means that men are less able to control the passing on of genetic materials (Buss, 1996).

This, according to some theorists, equates to a higher conflict in males. This conflict, known as internal fertilization, refers to the idea that once a female is impregnated, she is assured of the fact that she has been successful in furthering her genetic material. The male, however, is not as certain, since he cannot be sure the offspring is his. To combat this problem, some theorists state, men developed sexual control strategies over women, and are more jealous of other males (Daly and Wilson, 1998).

In addition, males also fear the investment of resources for children that do not bear their genetic materials. Since the male cannot determine who the father of the offspring truly is, it is possible for the male to donate time, resources, and materials to the development of a child that is, in reality, the product of another male. This potential, which is always present and never truly identifiable, creates yet another source of conflict in the male, and contributes to his jealously (Buss, et al., 1992).

Theorists who believe that men are more jealous than women point to crime statistics and self-reports to prove their theory. For example, in one study of male prison inmates convicted of aggravated assault or murder, over 60% reported committing the crime out of jealousy. That same study pointed to the higher number of males committing rape, another violent reaction thought to be associated with jealousy (Connell, 2001).

Additional studies have shown that, when asked to choose which scenario would be more distressing, males chose sexual infidelity over emotional infidelity as more distressing. Women in the study showed emotional infidelity to be more distressing. Further, when asked for responses to the infidelity chosen as more distressing, men responded more violently than women, furthering the idea that men were more jealous than women (DeSteno, et al., 2002)

When looking at studies such as these, it appears indisputable that men and women have formed different jealousy mechanisms, and that men have reason to be more jealous than females. Yet recent research by Christine Harris and others finds severe flaws with the standard measurement of jealousy in sex-related jealousy studies (Harris, 2004). While men and women may show some minor differences in jealousy reactions, the gap is far less than previously thought.

In Harris's evaluation of existing jealousy studies, she points to the four main types of data collected to prove jealousy is more of a male trait, those of self-report, psychological, criminal data, and cases of pathological jealousy. As Harris points out, each of these methods has serious flaws associated. For example, Harris is very critical of self-report data which employs the forced choice method of response. In these reports, the subjects are forced to choose one of a specific list of answers. Harris points out that while some of these studies show large differences between the reactions of men and women, those same studies also show vast differences among men alone. Harris points to one such study, in which great differences were found between the responses of American, European, and Asian men (Harris, 2004).

Additionally, Harris also points to self-report studies which rely on actual infidelity experiences, rather than hypothetical cases. In studies that used actual cases of infidelity, men and women did not differ in their jealous reactions to the infidelity. Harris thus concluded that while self-report measures based on hypothetical infidelity may lend insight to jealousy, they were certainly not reliable in comparison of the sexes (Harris, 2004).

In fact, studies that have not followed the force-choice method of studying jealousy have shown virtually no difference between male and female reactions. DeSteno and his colleagues had subjects respond to questions about two scenarios, and had them determine which was more emotionally upsetting. The researchers instructed the subjects to think of current or past relationships, and apply the scenarios to those relationships. Additionally, cognitive load tasks were administered at the same time. The study was done with the hypothesis that if in fact jealousy were due to evolution, and if males were more prone to that jealousy, then responses of subjects would not differ between a control group without the cognitive load manipulation, and the experimental group (DeSteno, et al., 2002).

DeSteno found that the cognitive load manipulation did, in fact, influence the responses of the subjects. Even on the questions previously tested on, that of a comparison… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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