Volutionary Versus Social Structural Explanations for Sex Differences in Mate Preferences, Jealousy, and Aggression

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This paper compares the perspectives of evolutionary psychology and social structural theory on sex differences in jealousy, mate preferences, and aggression. These two theories shed somewhat different lights on the origins of sex differences between men and women. Both theories discuss sex differences in mate preferences, jealousy, and aggression. Explanations from the two theories are compared and contrasted.

Explanations for Sex Differences
Evolutionary psychologists have developed a theory to explain the origins of differences between men and women. Evolutionary psychology is the most well-developed theory explaining sex differences (Wood & Eagly, 2002). From the evolutionary perspective, human sex differences reflect the pressure of differing physical and social environments between females and males in primeval times. It is believed that each sex faced different pressures and that the differing reproductive status was the key feature in life at that time. This resulted in sex-specific evolved mechanisms that humans carry with them--these are the causes of sex-differentiated behavior. The two sexes developed different strategies to ensure their survival and reproductive success. This explains why men and women differ psychologically: They tend to occupy different social roles (Eagly & Wood, 1999). Evolutionary psychologists explain sex differences as based on differing parental investment. Because women invest greatly in reproduction of offspring, they have developed traits that help improve the chances that each offspring will survive. Men are less concerned with reproduction and are less choosy about mates (Wood & Eagly, 2002). Evolutionary psychologists view sex-evolved dispositions as psychological tendencies that have been built in genetically. Environmental factors act as cues that interact with evolved predispositions to yield sex-typed responses (Eagly & Wood, 1999). This explains the difference in each sex's perspective on reproduction.

The social structural theory states that the critical cause of sex differences is social structure. Because men and women tend to have different social roles, they become psychologically different to adjust to their social roles (Eagly & Wood, 1999). The differences between genders are not based psychologically but are influenced socially. It is believed that situations faced by each sex are variable in societies and cultures and historical periods and that there are changes are in responses to technology, ecology, and social organization. Because men are bigger and stronger, they are given more attention and respect in our society. Physical sex differences influence the roles held by men and women, because one sex will accomplish certain activities better than the other sex. Each performance by one sex determines its placement in the social structure. With physical differences, each sex is believed to develop traits according to placement in the social structure. Men who have roles of great power and good standing in society show more dominant behavior, whereas women's roles are normally classified with lesser power and status and will produce more subordinate behavior. Social structural theory views sex differences as built-in tendencies to attempt to accommodate assignment to social roles (Eagly & Wood, 1999). This theory emphasizes that mate selection by women is not only focused on reproduction of childen but also on power and social status. Mate selection is women's way to move up the social ladder.

Mate Preferences
Several considerations influences a person's selection of a suitable mate. Evolutionary psychology indicates that characteristics that people seek in mates depend on their sex and whether it is a short-term or a long-term mating. Women are limited in the number of children they can have during their lifetime. Men have no restriction when it comes to reproduction. Both men and women compete for their choice of mate. Women will...
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