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Title: The dangerous passion : sex-specific or universal mechanism? a psychobiological investigation of romantic jealousy
Author: Fussell, Nicola Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2745 0511
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2013
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The present thesis adopts a psychobiological approach to investigate the nature of the underlying psychological mechanism of romantic jealousy, specifically whether between-sex differences in jealousy arise from a sexually dimorphic adaptation or one that is universally expressed in men and women based upon the attachment system. The research prediction was that in accordance with comparative research that infers a role for the sex steroid hormone, testosterone, in intra-sexual competition and mate guarding behaviour, testosterone would be associated with romantic jealousy in men, but not in women. Such a naturally selected sex-differentiated biological mechanism could explain greater male distress at sexual compared with emotional infidelity that would give support to the sex-specific hypothesis of romantic jealousy. Over a series of four studies, a putative role for prenatal testosterone (indexed by the second-to-fourth digit ratio) and circulating testosterone (measured in saliva samples) and attachment processes in the propensity to experience jealousy and relative distress at sexual infidelity is investigated and the findings discussed in the context of extant literature. The research prediction was not supported. There was no clear evidence for a between-sex difference in associations between testosterone and romantic jealousy and marginally significant findings for testosterone to be associated with romantic jealousy in both sexes were sporadic and not replicated. An unexpected inverted U-shaped relationship between circulating testosterone and distress at sexual infidelity in both sexes in the final study was interesting but possibly artefactual and requires replication before firm conclusions can be drawn. There was some evidence for prenatal testosterone to have an indirect effect on romantic jealousy through sex-differentiated insecure attachment orientation but, again, these findings were not consistent throughout the whole research programme. The investigation confirmed a reliable association between anxious attachment orientation and the propensity to experience romantic jealousy in both sexes and reported a novel but modest effect of avoidant attachment orientation priming on di stress at sexual infidelity, However, as distress at sexual infidelity was neither strongly related to a greater general interest in sex nor to attachment processes, a sexually dimorphic rather than a universal psychological mechanism of romantic jealousy seems more likely on the body of the evidence presented here.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available