Envy Eats Away at Everyone

Jealousy much the same in men and women, study says

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THURSDAY, June 26, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Whether their partner commits sexual or emotional infidelity, men and women have much the same jealous reaction.

That's according to a University of California, San Diego study recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Review.

It's long been contended that men react more strongly to a partner's sexual infidelity while women have a stronger reaction to emotional betrayal by a partner. Those gender differences were attributed to natural selection, which evolutionary psychologists said encouraged men and women to develop different emotional reactions to jealousy.

That line of reasoning suggests that men developed sexual jealousy as a mechanism to prevent cuckoldry and women developed emotional jealousy as a way to prevent the loss of resources.

Men would give priority to sexual jealousy because it would prevent them from having to expend energy on providing and caring for a child that wasn't their own. Women were shaped by evolution to be more jealous of a partner's emotional betrayal, which could result in the male no longer supplying food, shelter and other important resources to a woman and her children.

But this new study contradicts that idea. It challenges the view of gender differences on jealously and contends that men and women seem to regard sexual and emotional jealousy in the same light.

"This research has found that the evolutionary theory of jealousy just does not hold up to rigorous academic scrutiny. A thorough analysis of the different lines of research which espoused this point of view raises serous doubts about how much of a sex difference actually exists. It is entirely possible that natural selection shaped the two sexes to be more similar rather than different," study author Christine Harris says in a news release.

She reviewed a number of studies that seemed to support the theory of a gender difference in jealousy and concluded that many of the studies contained numerous flaws and discrepancies.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about infidelity and other family issues.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, June 2003

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