Gender, relationship power, and coping with romantic jealousy
Dodge, Anthony R
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A spirited research interest in romantic jealousy within the past decade has not shown one gender to be more jealous than the other; however, important observations have been made concerning differences in vulnerability to jealousy threats and in the ways that men and women manage jealousy. Some researchers have noted that these differences are not attributable to gender, per se, but to sex role and power inequities in relationships. This study investigated the proposal that differences in men's and women's management of jealousy might be associated with the distribution of power in romantic relationships. Following a preliminary study, 244 female and 156 male students at two Texas universities completed a questionnaire that included items for further development of the Relationship Power Scale and self-report measures of affect responses and coping strategies used in a recent jealousy experience involving their partners. Internal reliability was shown for the resultant measure of relationship power, but validation data suggested that the construct may have had different implications for males and females. Factor analyses of jealousy affect produced a two factor solution representing anger and anxiety. Similarly, factor analyses of jealousy coping yielded four direct/bilateral and five indirect/unilateral scales. There was no difference in males' and females' scores on relationship power. The findings also failed to show that either gender or relationship power were related to anger or the engagement of direct/bilateral strategies such as seeking retribution, aggressing toward the partner or rival, or even asserting oneself. Coercion related to power only for males, but unexpectedly, greater power was inversely related to coercion. Consistent with the research hypotheses, participants with less relationship power experienced greater anxiety, but this association was stronger for males. As predicted, males reported greater use of withdrawal; however, females in equitable relationships were least likely to withdraw or avoid the partner when jealous. Except those in equitable relationships, females compared themselves to rivals more than males, and, unexpectedly, males engaged in greater self-blame and displacement. Positive reframing was utilized most by equitable status males. Although inferences pertaining to anger and direct/bilateral coping strategies are not possible, the findings suggested that high power status males and females in equitable relationships were troubled least by jealousy. Surprisingly, low and high power females appeared to manage jealousy in a similar fashion. The inclusion of additional variables in regression analyses suggested that, in addition to power, qualitative aspects of the relationship may be important predictors of females' jealousy, whereas males' jealousy may also relate to sex attitudes and degree of security concerning their partner's sexual fidelity.