How Jealousy Works

Jealousy in Relationships: The Gender Factor

Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There's no doubt that everyone experiences some level of jealousy at some time or another. Many people wonder whether or not jealousy is influenced by age, gender, ethnicity or other factors. These questions, while very interesting, are also exceedingly difficult to study in a controlled, scientific setting. According to Dr. Hupka, many psychologists believe that women are inclined to be jealous more often, simply because they tend to be more honest and in touch with their emotions than their male counterparts.

The triggers to male and female jealousy also tend to be the same. Both genders become jealousy when they fear losing something or someone valuable to them. One study, however, revealed that women would be more likely to aim jealous behavior at a rival, rather than their partner. Maybe Hera was ahead of her time after all.

One study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior found that taller men tend to be less jealous than shorter men. The researchers attribute this to male height being associated with reproductive success, attractiveness and dominance. Similarly, women of average height tend to be less jealous than taller or shorter counterparts, perhaps because they are also believed to be healthier and more reproductively successful.

At this time, there does not appear to be a difference in jealousy levels between ethnic and age groups. It is difficult to study age groups because it would require the scientists to interview the exact same people one age, then revisit them decades later. Dr. Hupka argues that even if that was accomplished, the results would be outdated, because people raised in the 1950s experienced entirely different cultural variations than people raised just a couple of decades later. Similarly, cultural variations from country to country would make studies on different ethnic groups difficult to generalize across the board.

How does jealousy affect the younger set? On the next page, we'll take a look.