THURSDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Betrayal may be in the eye of the beholder, a new study suggests.
Researchers found a partner's physical infidelity may seem worse to men while emotional infidelity may be of greater concern to women, but while gender plays a role in jealousy, experiences in previous relationships may be even more important.
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The common belief, which is based on evolutionary theory, is that males want to be sure that the offspring they are raising are their own, and females seek to have a partner that is emotionally invested in raising their family.
In the new study, psychological scientists Kenneth Levy and Kristen Kelly, of Pennsylvania State University, asked men and women about which would be worse in their opinion -- sexual or emotional infidelity. The participants also answered questionnaires about their own relationships.
According to their findings, scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, among both genders, those who valued autonomy over commitment were more upset by hypothetical sexual infidelity, but those who placed a high value on commitment were more disturbed by the prospect of emotional infidelity.
The study authors noted that their findings do not call into question the evolutionary gender theory of jealousy, but instead add another dimension to the theory by suggesting that differences in personality that form during relationships may fall along gender lines.
The message, according to Levy and Kelly, is that responses to infidelity are more complicated than previously thought. The study authors also suggested that it might be possible to reduce violence resulting from sexual jealousy by encouraging people to value commitment more.
-- Randy Dotinga
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SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, news release, Jan. 26, 2010