HELP - Marking my essay on Infidelity & JealousyWatch
(The paragraphs in itallics are AO2)
Discuss Evolutionary Explanations of Human Aggression Including Infidelity & Jealousy
Infidelity is the process of being unfaithful to a romantic partner such as a husband or wife. When a partner is unfaithful in a relationship, it can act as a trigger of aggressive behaviour. This is because they feel under threat. The evolutionary theory focuses on the role of survival, and therefore an individual can become defensive when they have competition with another person. Research has found that 99% of individuals expect their partners to be faithful. Therefore, when this expectation isn’t met, this can easily lead to violence.
Brunk et al investigated the gender differences of aggression linked to infidelity. If a woman has been unfaithful, the male partner may feel sexual jealousy and begins to question the paternity of the children. As males have an instinct to ensure they successively reproduce and pass on their genes to offspring, if they find they aren’t the biological father of the child, he is likely to leave or resort to aggressive behaviour. The women may fear the lack of necessary resources to cope such as food, money and emotional support. The anxiety can build up in both sexes and manifested into aggressive behaviour.
This can easily lead to jealousy. Research has found that the most common reason for violence within a relationship is jealousy. De Weerth et al found that the result of this jealousy is aggressive behaviour. This is shown in females more than males. As males tend to resort to alcohol abuse.
However, this piece of research was conducted in Holland. This questions whether the research holds cross-cultural validity, as the findings may not be applicable to other cultures. For example, infidelity and jealousy may lead to the couples into relationship counselling if there are underlying issues in the relationship, if another culture was studied.
A further criticism of the study is that the participants were given a hypothetical situation, in which they responded with their likely response. This can be easily subject to artificiality, as they may not be able to predict their actions if the scenario was to actually happen. The results can be further distorted due to demand characteristics. The participants will know the aim of the study, and may change their answers to fit with aim. For example, a woman that may not be particularly aggressive, may have responded with a contradictory response. In conclusion, we cannot say the findings are completely valid.
However, Anglin et al found that violent males lack ways of reasonably responding to infidelity, as compared to non-violent males who don’t tend to resort to aggressive behaviour. This suggests that individual differences are not accounted for, as not everyone will act aggressively when their partner is unfaithful. This can be explained by hormonal explanations of aggression. It may be that those which tend to be more aggressive, have higher levels of testosterone (Nelson). Therefore, the violent males will have higher levels of testosterone than the non-violent males. This suggests a need to combine the evolutionary theory with further biological theories to produce a fully established, holistic approach.
In conclusion, it could be argued that all the studies of infidelity and jealousy fail to operationalise aggression similarly. For example, Anglin may have different perceptions of what behaviour is aggressive, compared to Brunk. What one person views as highly aggressive, such as a punch, may seem fairly unaggressive to another. This questions the validity of the findings from various studies, and suggests a need for research with operationalisability which can be increased by using several researchers to analyse the findings. This would increase the inter-rater reliability.
Discuss Evolutionary explanations of Jealousy and Infidelity
According to the evolutionary theory, aggression helps aid our chances of survival. Therefore, it is presumed that aggression has been inherited and developed from our ancestors through the process of natural selection. This is demonstrated in today’s context through the emotion of jealousy and the act of infidelity. Jealousy is a fear of losing affection and status which can result in aggression. Infidelity is the act of being unfaithful to a partner, emotionally or sexually. This leads to jealousy, as we wish to protect what we have from any threat, and in turn aggression in order to do this. Aggression can also be linked to gender roles. Men generally seek fertile young women, and women generally seek financial stability and resources. If these wishes/needs are compromised, then jealousy is triggered in order to prevent the losses of these wishes/needs, and consequently aggression potentially occurs. Men are mainly afraid of cuckoldry as men are generally more prone to parental uncertainty. It is therefore thought that jealousy has evolved as a human trait to deter sexual infidelity from women and minimise the risk of cuckoldry. Males have also developed retention strategies in order to deter mates from infidelity. This incorporates direct guarding, in which a male is extremely vigilant to their mate in order to restrict their female autonomy. This in turn reduces the chance of cuckoldry occurring, and increases the chance of the male passing on their genes and nurturing their own child, and not someone else’s. However, retention strategies can also include violence against a woman, which in extreme cases unintended consequences of this evolutionary behaviour can result in her death, which is known as uxoricide.
Shackleton et al. has conducted research which supports the relationship between male retention strategies and violence. He found that men’s use of retention strategies is positively correlated with violence scores.
Wilson also found that men who have been left or are about to be left commit a high proportion of partner homicides, due to the jealousy of losing them to another male. However, there may have been other unknown situational factors which were the root cause of the homicides, e.g. drugs and money. Therefore, we cannot count this is reliable and accurate evidence as we cannot show cause and effect.
According to Miller, 55% of 44 battered wives who lived in a Canadian women’s hospital in 1980 cited jealousy as the reason for their husband’s aggression which supports the theory. However, we must be careful about the subjective nature of self-report techniques and data. As well as this, we should also query the subjective nature of jealousy. What one man finds as an act of infidelity, another man may not consider it so detrimental. This cannot be explained with the evolutionary theories.
Further research has also been conducted by Buss, who measured stress levels in US students and found that males had higher stress responses when viewing pictures of sexual infidelity. Females had higher levels of stress when viewing images of emotional infidelity. This demonstrates that different environmental cues trigger different responses of jealousy in males and females.
However, this research has been criticised by other researches for lacking ecological validity due to the use of imagined hypothetical scenarios rather than real life situations to measure responses to infidelity. It is more accurate to suggest that in real life, both men and women experience some form of emotional jealousy to infidelity. The research is also considered to lack internal validity since the high stress response emitted by males and females may not actually be a direct cause of jealousy, but an alternate stressor or emotion.
The same arousal response would be emitted if they were experiencing sexual arousal, so the conclusions of this study may be wrong or misinterpreted.
Dreznick suggested that there may be alternative explanations to the evolutionary theory in terms of what constitutes as infidelity. If men do not perceive emotional infidelity as infidelity then they would not be particularly jealous and therefore would not be aggressive.
Aggression resulting in homicide can also be explained in evolutionary terms. One factor that may lead to homicide is increased male-male competition, a response which occurs when there’s a lack of resources, or difficulty attracting long-term mates. Wilson & Daly analysed homicides in Detroit and found that 43% of male perpetrators were unemployed (lack of resources), and 73% were unmarried (lack of relationship).
Homicide can also be driven by sexual jealousy. Wilson & Daly also found that 92% of murders occurring in love triangles were male-male, suggesting that male jealousy is in fact a key motivator of same-sex aggression and homicide, supporting the evolutionary theory.
The evolutionary theory of aggression has a real-world application however. The use of mate retention strategies can be utilised as an early indicator of potential partner violence. It therefore has value in alerting others to intervene before actual violence against the partner can occur.
There are limitations to the evolutionary theory, such as individual differences. This approach fails to explain why some men react differently to the same stimulus. This suggests that aggression and violence is not a universal response to sexual jealousy, and in turn that it is not completely down to evolution.
This perspective is also unable to explain why, if this is a universal human response to these situations, there are cultural differences in the importance of violence. For example, in some cultures, such as that of the Yanomamo of South America, male violence is used to attain status, however in the vast majority of other cultures, aggression only leads to reputational damage.