Bale, Christopher (2013) Romantic desirability, self-esteem and relationship behaviour in women. In: British Psychological Society Annual Conference, 9-11 Apr 2013, Harrogate, UK.. (Unpublished)

Objectives: Sociometer theory proposes that self-esteem is a psychological adaptation which evolved to monitor individuals’ interpersonal relationships and motivate adaptive relational behaviour. The theory predicts that self-perceptions of romantic desirability should influence self-esteem, which should influence behaviour in long-term relationships. This study sought to address a lack of previous research relevant to testing this prediction.

Design: Relationships between self-report measures of self and partner romantic desirability, self-esteem, and relational behaviour were examined in women.

Methods: 192 women who were engaged in long term relationships were recruited via email and reported their own and their partners’ romantic desirability, their self-esteem, and their mate retention and partner investment behaviours in an online study.

Results: Regression analyses indicated that self-esteem did not significantly predict either mate retention or partner investment behaviour. However, women’s perceptions of their desirability relative to their partners significantly predicted their investment behaviours such that women who reported being less desirable than their partners reported investing more in them.

Conclusions: The results support a traditional equity theory perspective on investment in intimate relationships but provide no evidence in support of sociometer theory. Given the limitations of the correlational, self-report design of this study, it is suggested that future experimental and longitudinal diary studies involving both partners be employed to further investigate the possible influence of self-esteem on behaviour in long term relationships. Developing a greater insight into this would have implications for understanding phenomena such as relationship satisfaction and dissolution, and intimate partner violence.

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