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Sex Differences in Jealousy: A Population-Based Twin Study in Sweden

  • Hasse Walum (a1), Henrik Larsson (a1), Lars Westberg (a2), Paul Lichtenstein (a1) and Patrik K. E. Magnusson (a1)...

According to the theory of evolved sex differences in jealousy, the challenge for women to ensure paternal investment increased their jealousy response to emotional infidelity, whereas paternal uncertainty exerted selective pressures that shaped men to become more distressed by sexual infidelity. Several studies have investigated whether the effect of these sexually dimorphic selection pressures can be detected in contemporary human populations, with conflicting results. To date, no genetically informed studies of sex differences in jealousy have been conducted. We used data from the Screening Across the Lifespan of Twins Younger (SALTY) sample, containing information concerning self-rated jealousy from 3,197 complete twin pairs collected by the Swedish Twin Registry. Intra-class correlations and structural equation models were used to assess the genetic influence on jealousy and to investigate sex differences at genetic level. We saw a highly significant sex effect on the relationship between infidelity types, indicating that men, relative to women, reported greater jealousy in response to sexual infidelity than in response to emotional infidelity. The twin models revealed significant heritabilities for both sexual (32%) and emotional (26%) jealousy. The heritabilities were of a similar magnitude in both sexes, and no qualitative sex differences could be detected. We show for the first time that variance in jealousy is to some extent explained by genetic factors. Even though our results from the mean value analyses are in line with the theory of evolved sex differences in jealousy, we could not identify any sex differences on a genetic level.

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Corresponding author
address for correspondence: Hasse Walum, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Box 281, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:
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Twin Research and Human Genetics
  • ISSN: 1832-4274
  • EISSN: 1839-2628
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