A2 Psychology - Relationships

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  • Created on: 28-05-16 15:49

Effects of childhood on adult romantic relationshi


The Internal Working Model provided by the primary caregiver in infancy affects ALL future relationships.

3 behavioural systems will develop as a result of early experiences:

  • Attachment
  • Caregiving
  • Sexuality
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Attachment (1)


  • Trusting
  • Not overly distressed/jealous on separation
  • No problem on expressing/being honest about feelings
  • Able to rely on a partner


  • Clingy
  • Jealous
  • Lack of trust - controlling/manipulative
  • Inconsistent and unpredictable
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Attachment (2)


  • Afraid of commitment - uncomfortable to express feelings
  • Independent - unwilling to rely on a partner
  • Emotional barriers
  • Avoids intimacy
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Effects of childhood on adult romantic relationshi


Our primary caregiver models caregiving behaviour. How we care for others in our own adult relationships will therefore depend on how we were cared for when we were infants. People are better caregivers if their experience of caregiving is consistent.


  • Secure adults are most likely to enjoy a fulfilling sex life in the context of secure, long term relationships.
  • Insecure resistant adults are likely to have turbulent sex lives and use sex as a tool in 'game playing' (eg. to 'get back' at partner for something bad they have done or to make people like them).
  • Insecure avoidant adults may actively seek sex without love in an attempt to avoid genuine intimacy.
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Hazen & Shaver (1)

AIM: To investigate whether attachment theory could be used to understand romantic love in adults. Specifically whether adults could be classified as types based on attachment theory and to see how these types differed in their experience of love.

PROCEDURE: A 'Love Quiz' was published in a local American newspaper. The replies received within a week were analysed. Part 1 of the quiz had statements about the respondents current or recent relationship. Part 2 of the quiz asked for details about respondent's love life eg. How often they had been in love. Part 3 was a measure of attachment type in infancy.

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Hazen & Shaver (2)

FINDINGS: 56% of the sample were classified as secure, 19% as resistant and 25% as avoidant. The secure group reported longer adult relationships. The avoidants were most likely to report fear of intimacy, whereas the resistants were most likely to report extreme crushes and jealousy.

CONCLUSION: We can use attachment theory to understand romantic relationships in adulthood. The quality of relationship with parents influences adult attachment type. Secure adult attachment is associated with longer and happier relationships. Problems experienced by those with insecure adult attachments are those we would expect given the behaviour of those attachment types in infancy.

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Hazen & Shaver (3)

Hazen & Shaver's research findings show that having a secure attachment type is a predictor of a longer, happier relationship in adulthood. Which supports Love As Attachment theory because it suggests the internal working model developed in infancy goes on to develop your quality of your relationships in adulthood. Therefore suggesting parent-child relationships do have an influence on adult relationships.

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Love as Attachment (R)

BANSE looked at the relationship between attachment type and marital type in 333 German couples. Banse found that relationship satisfaction was greatest when both partners were secure. Scores for both insecure attachment types correlated negatively with satisfaction.

WATERS ET AL retested adults for their attachment type 20 years after they were first assessed (at 12 months old). 72% of adults received the same classification as adults as they did in infancy from the Strange Situation. This supports Ainsworth's view that attachment type is usually an enduring characteristic, but this is clearly not the case for everyone as 28% changed their attachment type. This suggests that L as A is very deterministic. There is hope that people can change their attachments types.

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Love as Attachment (R)

However, there are methodological flaws with all of these for two reasons:

  • They are correlational which means we cannot be sure of the direction of causality. Does attachment become the cause or effect? Third variables eg. parents separation.
  • They rely on self-report techniques which can be unreliable because people give socially desirable responses and memories are unreliable/inaccurate.
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Love as Attachment (P)

Promiscuity: This theory would explain promiscuity as a symptom of poor attachment.

Cycle of abuse/neglect: If the IWM from infancy is dysfunctional, children will grow up lacking the skills they need to be good caregivers themselves.

Therefore children who have not been well cared for do not grow up with the behavioural systems to have fulfilling relationships themselves or the skills to care for their own children - socially sensitive/deterministic?

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Love as Attachment (W)


L as A theory is socially sensitive because it blames parents for bad attachments/relationships and means that if your childhood was dysfunctional, your adult will be as well.

In fact, Waters research shows that 28% of those tested did in fact change attachment type, which means that the theory is overly deterministic. Our later relationships may be shaped by our childhood, but this is not as strong as suggesting that they are determined by our childhood.

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Love as Attachment (W)

L as A is also reductionist, in that all problematic behaviour in relationships are traced back to early childhood. Other approaches may have a much simpler explanation. For example, the evolutionary approach would not see male promiscuity as a problem stemming from infancy, because in fact they would suggest male promiscuity is natural and adaptive because it maximises their chances of reproduction.

The behavioural approach would also reject the idea of a deep rooted Internal Working Model. They would offer a simpler explanation for the fact that dysfunctional relationships run in families, suggesting that behaviour is imitated from role models (SLT).

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Relationships in different cultures (1)


  • Selfishness is common
  • Independence is the norm
  • Self-actualisation is the goal


  • Personal sacrifice is common
  • Interdependence is the norm
  • Greater good is the goal
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Relationships in different cultures (2)

Western = VOLUNTARY:

  • More freedom
  • Free to choose our own partners

Non-Western = IN VOLUNTARY:

  • Fewer choices
  • Arranged marriages by consent (not forced)
  • Choice of partner is guided by the family
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Relationships in different cultures (3)

Western = TEMPORARY:

  • Before we commit, dating different people is common
  • Divorce is common

Non-Western = PERMANENT:

  • Date the person we commit to
  • Divorce is uncommon
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Relationships in different cultures (4)


  • Characterised by passion and intimacy
  • We hope commitment follows


  • Characterised by intimacy and commitment
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Relationships in different cultures (R)

1. SHKODRIANI & GIBBONS investigated the difference between Mexican and US students. They found the Mexican students were significantly more interdependent in terms of their relationships with friends, neighbours and co-workers compared with US students.

This supports the view that interdependence is a social norm in non-Western cultures, and seen as a sign of weakness for individualist cultures.

2. Statistics support the view that divorce is significantly less common in Non-western cultures. 50% of marriages in the UK and US end in divorce, compared to just 5% in China. 

This supports the view that relationships are seen as temporary for Western cultures.

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Relationships in different cultures (R)

YELSMA & ATHAPPILLY found that happiness and satisfaction was highest in Indian arranged marriages when compared to American love marriages.

SIMMELL found that the belief we have to find the 'ideal one' places a huge pressure on relationships and may be a factor in relationship breakdown in Western cultures. It may simply be that expectations are different.

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Expectations of relationships


  • Independence - live separately from parents/family
  • In love/passion - attraction
  • Soulmate/"the one" - constant confirmation


  • Interdependence - network of social support (rely on family)
  • Respect each other, work together, raise a family
  • Be committed to someone we like and respect
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Relationships in different cultures (W)

  • Emic perspective - This is the process of studying a culture from within it. We know and understand our own culture and feel qualified to discuss our own cultural values and norms. However, in doing so, we tend to be biased towards our own culture, assuming it is best and making sweeping statements (which may not be true) about other cultures.
  • Etic perspective - This is the process of studying a different culture from the outside looking in. When we do this we lack the genuine insight to really understand what it means to be a part of that culture and may make invalid assumptions about how people feel (eg. 'poor them, they can't get divorced. They must be so unhappy trapped in loveless marriages'). 

On this basis, very few people are genuinely qualified to talk knowledgeably about cross-cultural differences in relationships.

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Relationships in different cultures (W)

Furthermore, studying 'cross-cultural differences' in relationships forces us to overgeneralise.

  • Many Non-Western arranged marriages involve romantic love (there is some evidence that it is increasingly common)
  • Many Western love marriages are based on companionate love more than romantic love
  • Some people stay in Western relationships 'for the greater good' eg. children
  • Some people may leave Non-Western relationships because of a lack of personal profit or feeling of inequity.

Therefore, there is as much variation within cultures as there is between cultures eg. Romany Gypsy culture are Western, but have different norms to others.

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The formation of relationships (1)


Through evolutionary theory, it is said we are attracted to the person who looks the most ideal to us, this tends to be women who have youth and good ability to grow and raise a child and for men to be muscly and for there to be signs of resources such as wealth. However, the matching hypothesis says we are driven to the most attractive person, although we tend to be drawn to people we believe we match in terms of attractiveness. We wouldn't be with someone less attractive because it may lower our attractiveness and we want good-looking offspring. We won't go for someone who is more attractive than us because we are frightened of rejection and are scared that they may leave us for someone else.

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Matching Hypothesis (R)

WALSTERS found that when asked for a quick decision about whether participants were happy with their date, most ppts assigned to an attractive partner were happy whilst this was the opposite for the attractive partner. This supports evolutionary theory which suggests that we will all find the same hysical characteristics attractive. Doesn't support matching hypothesis.

In a follow up study, they gave ppts longer to get to know their dates. Those who were rated equally attractive were most likely to take the relationship further. 6 months later, those who continued to see their partner were indeed judged to be most similar in attractiveness. This supports matching hypothesis.

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Matching Hypothesis (R)

MURSTEIN further supported Walster's research findings by finding that when shown photographs of individuals (male and female), and asked to rate each one on attractiveness, judges were significantly more likely to give real life couples an equal score.

HATFIELD found the same more recently, and noted that 'matching' was equally evident in gay and lesbian relationships.

However, research suggests that not everyone places equal emphasis on physical attractiveness (despite what evolutionary theory would propose). TOWHEY found that men who scored highly on the 'macho scale' (which included sexist and stereotypical attitudes) were most likely to select a partner based almost entirely on physical characteristics, whereas those who were low on 'macho' ratings felt looks were much less important.

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Matching Hypothesis (P/W)

P - Sometimes we see 'mismatched' couples, and this may be explained using this theory by individual differences such as self-esteem. This is because someone with a lack of self-esteem may perceive themselves differently to how others perceive them. They may match themselves differently.

W - This theory is socially sensitive as it suggests that we are quite shallow as we judge on appearance. We are basing all judgements on whether someone is resourceful and physical attractiveness.

This isn't true for everyone. This theory can't explain why those who have never met or are blind or have never met get into a relationship - use Towhey's findings.

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Matching Hypothesis (W)

It is also ethnocentric because it makes the assumption that you are making the initial filtering of the search for a partner/mate. In a collectivist culture it would be family members who are making the initial filtering for arranged marriages.

However, the idea that many of us use physical attractiveness as an initial filter for potential partners is consistent with the evolutionary approach and the view that much of our mating behaviour is driven by sexual selection. This is evident in the modern era with the profile pictures on social dating websites.

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The formation of relationships (2)


This theory uses the principles of learning theory, so comes from the behavioural approach. The main premise of this theory is that we need a relationship that will be rewarding for us. According to the reward/need satisfaction theory, we will seek to form relationships with people who appear to meet our needs. We need relationships to be rewarding and this theory is based on the principles of operant conditioning which comes from the behavioural approach. According to Argyle, humans have 7 basic needs, including the need for sex, self-esteem and dependence. The most attractive relationship will be those which appear to meet those of our needs that are not being met elsewhere in our life.

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Reward/need Satisfaction (R)

CATE ET AL interviewed 337 participants. They found a positive correlation between how well their needs were met and how happy they were in their current relationships. This supports the theory that in life, if our needs are being met, we can maintain a healthy relationship.

However, Cate et al's research is flawed as it relies on self report techniques. This means that it is susceptible to socially desirable responses to look good in front of others and convince themselves that they are happy. As the research is flawed, it is difficult to see how we can scientifically support the theory. It would be unethical to sabotage real relationships for scientific research.

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Reward/need Satisfaction (P)

Useful in predicting the kind of relationships that stand the best chance. Eg. If you are outgoing and have a strong group of friends, then you will be incompatible with someone who will be reliant on your relationship. Likewise for dominance - MARKEY found that those most satisfied with the relationship if partners offered from them (in terms of dominance).

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Reward/need Satisfaction (W)

Draws heavily on behavioural approach. This suggests relationship satisfaction relies heavily on us - selfish. However, most long-term relationships go through times where certain needs cannot be met, but the relationship doesn't get abandoned.

Ethnocentric - Collectivist cultures have more of a focus on the 'greater good' and personal sacrifice (which doesn't neccessarily make them unhappy).

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Economic theories of relationship maintenance

Economic thories are useful in understanding what helps relationships to be maintained by explaining relationships in terms of costs and benefits, where a cost-benefit analysis allows us to identify what is most profitable for us. They also take into account barriers, which can be important because it determines whether or not the relationship should be maintained, even if the cost is high eg. family, owning a house together etc. The stronger the barriers, the higher the cost.

The first economic theory, Social Exchange Theory (SET) states that if the benefits outweigh the costs, meaning our own personal profit is high, then the relationship should be maintained, regardless of our partner's costs and benefits. Whereas a second theory, Equity Theory (ET) states that both partners have a fair or equal profit from the cost-benefit analysis, helping to maintain the relationship.

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Economic theories of relationship maintenance

Both theories suggest that when making conscious decisions about whether to maintain a relationship or not, we use the Comparison Level (CL) and Comparison Level for Alternatives (CLalt), meaning that our current relationship is compared to previous relationships or the alternative option. If the alternative option/previous relationship is worse, the current relationship is more likely to be maintained, until the alternative is better.

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Economic theories (R)

STAFFORD & CANARY found (in a sample of 200 marital couples) that satisfaction was highest when the relationship was perceived as equal. This supports equity theory, suggesting that we are happiest when we take into account our partner's happiness - replicate previous research (Hatfield)

Furthermore, HATFIELD found that newly married couples in equitable relationships were most happy, suggesting that Stafford & Canary's results are reliable.

However, perhaps not everyone is as aware or concerned about their partner's happiness. CATE & LLOYD found evidence to suggest that relationship satisfaction was greatest when personal profit/rewards were at their best. Personal gain made people happier than being in a fair relationship, suggesting that some people are more selfish and don't feel guilt when they over-benefit (SET)

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Economic theories (P)

Economic thories (particularly application of the CL and CLalt) can be useful in explaining:

  • Why some people may stay in abusive relationships. This is because the CL and the CLalt may be so bad due to their low self-esteem that anything is better than being alone, even if the relationship is damaging.
  • How Behavioural Marital Therapy (JACOBSEN ET AL) works. This is because it is based on profit and/or fairness to a relationship by 
    • a). Altering how much each person is investing
    • b). Changing perceptions of costs and benefits.
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Economic theories (W)

Furthermore, this research revolves around the assumption that we are constantly carrying out (consciously or unconsciously) a cost-benefit analysis. This is ethnocentric because it may only be relevant to relationships in individualist cultures. This is because personal costs and benefits are not important to collectivist cultures as there is a focus on the 'greater good'. What makes people happy be very different.

Whether we are from an individualist culture or not, the idea that we are constantly reviewing how much we are taking from a relationship can be seen as dehumanising because it paints a very selfish picture, to use language such as "cost-benefit" when discussing a more emotional and important topic.

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The breakdown of relationships


  • Focuses on how relationships break down instead of why.
  • 'Stage Theory' - we go through 6 stages when experiencing a relationship breakdown: Breakdown, Intrapsychic, Dyadic, Social, Grave Dressing and Ressurrection.
  • Dyadic is when we confront our partner to discuss our dissatisfaction, and ressurrection is when we reflect on that relationship to see what went well, what we would avoid in the future and what we would expect in future relationships.
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Breakdown of relationships (R)

Rollie and Duck's stage theory offers quite a positive view of relationship breakdown as they imply that we emerge from broken relationships with better skills and a better idea of what we want from future relationships. This is supported by TASHIR & FRAZIER who found that undergraduates felt a personal growth when experiencing a relationship breakdown.

However, you could argue that undergraduate relationships are unlikely to be very long term and unlikely to involve strong barriers. Which means the findings may lack credibility when we try to generalise to other relationships which may be long term/have strong barriers.

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Breakdown of relationships (R)

Support for economic theories as an explanation for relationship breakdown comes from DE MARIS who found that women feeling that they were underbenefitting was the single biggest predictor of relationship breakdown. This suggests that underbenefitting leads to resentment, which de-stabilises the relationship. At this point, if maintenance strategies aren't employed, the relationship is likely to break down.

However, this highlights a gender difference which theories of relationship breakdown may not have considered properly. For example, BREHM & KASSIN found that whilst women are more likely to cite 'unhappiness' as the reason for break up, men are more likely to cite 'sexual withholding' as a reason for break up. In other words, whilst women carry out complex c-b analysis, it may be that men are less complex, and their need to have sex frequently is more of a predictor of whether the relationship will breakdown.

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Breakdown of relationships (W)

This suggests that social psychology may be limited in its ability to explain relationship breakdown, as gender differences may lead to a more biological explanation, in particular the evolutionary theory would protect that for men, a relationship will break down through fear of cuckoldry and their high sex drive.

Research into relationship breakdown can be criticised because research is based on self-report techniques, which are likely to involve socially desirable responses. This means that the theory may lack scientific credibility. Furthermore, it raises ethical issues because talking about relationship breakdown can be distressing.

Research and theories into relationship breakdown are also ethnocentric because there is a strong Western bias in assuming relationships are temporary. There are different perceptions of happiness.

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Sexual Selection (1)

  • Sexual selection is an extension of natural selection.
  • Traits and behaviour have evolved to demonstrate 'reproductive fitness' to the opposite sex.
  • Traits and behaviour have evolved to be considered 'attractive' by the opposite sex because they indicate 'reproductive fitness'.
  • Intra-sexual selection: Takes place when members of one sex (often males) compete for access to the opposite sex. For example, male stags fighting over the 'right' to a female. The one that loses doesn't get to pass on his genes (and therefore the traits).
  • Inter-sexual selection: This takes place when members of one sex (normally females) choose from the available mates based on features they find desirable. For example, peacocks. The most 'attractive' male will get to pass on his genes (and therfore the traits).
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Sexual Selection (2)

  • When choosing a mate, males have to find a woman who can carry, have and care for a healthy baby. So the kinds of atributes he looks for tend to be physical such as youth and caregiver skills.
  • And women have to find a man who can provide and protect, for them and their offspring. So the kinds of attributes she looks for can be materials such as money.
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Sexual Selection (R)

WAYNFORTH & DUNBAR through analysing lonely hearts adverts, found that men tend to advertise financial stability and look for physical attractiveness and women do the opposite. This supports sexual selection because it indicates that makes and females do look for and 'advertise' different attributes, because of their different roles in reproduction.

BUSS used questionnaires to find that men in 36/37 countries tested placed a higher priority on physical attractiveness than women did. They also wanted younger women. Women placed a higher priority on 'good financial prospects'. This supports sexual selection because it shows these processes occurring cross-culturally, which indicates that they are evolved traits, adaptive to all humans.

CLARK & HATFIELD found that men were more likely to sleep with a stranger than women were. This supports sexual selection because it indicates that men are more likely to engage in casual sex in order to spread genes around whereas women look for long term resources.

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Sexual Selection (P)

  • Misattributed fatherhood: BAKER & BELLIS found that the world-wide rate of misattributed fatherhood is 9%. This suggests that women sleep with the man with the best genes, but stay with the man with the best resources to raise the child.
  • Age differences in relationships: Older men - Younger women are more fertile. Younger women - Older men have more resources.


  • Homosexual relationships or relationships with no intention to have children: According to evolutionary theory, our primary function is to have children.
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Sexual Selection (W)

  • REDUCTIONIST: It only uses an evolutionary approach to explain relationships. Other approaches may be needed to fully explain human relationships. For example, the behavioural approach explores how successful relationships can be rewarding in many different ways (Argyle's needs), not just because they provide opportunities for reproduction.
  • DETERMINISM/SOCIALLY SENSITIVE: It suggests it is innate factors which drive our choices about potential mates, over which we have little or no control. This is very socially sensitive for a number of reasons. For example, it provides an excuse for infidelity and deliberately deceiving a man about paternity. It also fails to explain how relationships that do not involve reproduction can be beneficial.
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Sexual Selection (W)

  • DEHUMANISING: Because it paints an animalistic view of humans, no further evolved than any other species. We find this upsetting because we like to believe that we are more sophisticated than this, and that we can over-ride these instincts in order to 'do the right thing' (eg. resist the temptation to be unfaithful).
  • LACKS SCIENTIFIC CREDIBILITY: It is impossible to test using empirical methods. The theory vannot be falsified since it is impossible to manipulate the IV (the evolution of our genetic makeup) to see if things could be different.
  • CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES: If research shows similar patterns of behaviour across all cultures then this suggests that there are innate factors driving our behaviour. If environmental factors (nurture) such as religion, family and media play a big role then we would expect to find big cross cultural variations.
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Sex differences in parental investment

  • From an evolutionary perspective, raising children is 'women's work'. They see investment in offspring as a natural and adaptive use of time for women, but less so for men. Arguably, this stems from the fact that women have a much larger biological investment in each of their children.
  • In theory, each female egg ('gamete') is infinitely more 'valuable' than the sperm required to fertilise it. This is because women have a limited number of eggs, making them more rare.
  • So evolutionary psychologists argue that it is inevitable that women take the lead in parenting, since they have to invest so much more in each child and fewer oppurtunities to ensure that their genes are passed on successfully.
  • Furthermore, avoiding too much investment in any one child may be an adaptive strategy for males, which has developed as a response to the risk of cuckoldry, which can't occur for women.
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Parental investment (R)

  • APICELLA & MARLOWE found that men did seem to be closer to their children who looked like them. Which supports evolutionary theory because the more paternal certainty there is, the more time/resources willing to be given.
  • However, ANDERSON found that men did not discriminate financially between children who were step-children in a current relationship, compared to their own genetic children from a previous relationship. This suggests that evolutionary explanations are poorly equipped to explain modern families where step-children and blended families are increasingly common.
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Parental investment (P)

  • When relationships break down, it is more common for the woman to become the main caregiver and become a single parent.
  • Since sperm donation is no longer an anonymous process, and the donors can be traced, the numbers have significantly dropped. Men may be frightened of possible investment from a child in the future.
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Parental investment (W)

The idea that investing in a child simply isn't natural for a man is a socially sensitive theory which is strongly challenged by the organisation Fathers4Justice. They are a group who have lobbied politicians to challenge laws in order to improve the rights of fathers after relationships break down. This organisation represents many men who would argue that evolutionary theories simply do not apply in modern, civilised society where it is common for men to father hundreds of children and the fear of cuckoldry does not define how men behave. They would argue that men have the free will to choose to invest in their children, and it is unacceptable to argue that this somehow goes against nature. The role of parental investment is also evident in step parents who choose to invest in step children, and adoptive parents who invest in children who have no biological link to them. We must therefore consider that there are many other factors which underpin our desire to nurture and raise children which are social and psychological, and nothing to do with evolution.

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