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The association between discontinuing hormonal contraceptives and wives’ marital satisfaction depends on husbands’ facial attractiveness

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Abstract

How are hormonal contraceptives (HCs) related to marital well-being? Some work suggests HCs suppress biological processes associated with women's preferences for partner qualities reflective of genetic fitness, qualities that may be summarized by facial attractiveness. Given that realizing such interpersonal preferences positively predicts relationship satisfaction, any changes in women's preferences associated with changes in their HC use may interact with partner facial attractiveness to predict women's relationship satisfaction. We tested this possibility using two longitudinal studies of 118 newlywed couples. Trained observers objectively rated husbands' facial attractiveness in both studies. In study 1, wives reported their marital satisfaction every 6 mo for 4 y and then reported the history of their HC use for their relationship. In study 2, wives reported whether they were using HCs when they met their husbands and then their marital satisfaction and HC use every 4 mo for up to three waves. In both studies, and in an analysis that combined the data from both studies, wives who were using HCs when they formed their relationship with their husband were less satisfied with their marriage when they discontinued HCs if their husband had a relatively less attractive face, but more satisfied if their husband had a relatively more attractive face. Beginning HCs demonstrated no consistent associations with marital satisfaction. Incongruency between HC use at relationship formation and current HC use was negatively associated with sexual satisfaction, regardless of husbands' facial attractiveness. These findings suggest that HC use may have unintended implications for women's close relationships.
The association between discontinuing hormonal
contraceptives and wivesmarital satisfaction
depends on husbandsfacial attractiveness
V. Michelle Russell
a,1
, James K. McNulty
a,1
, Levi R. Baker
a
, and Andrea L. Meltzer
b
a
Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306; and
b
Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275
Edited by Steven J. C. Gaulin, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, and accepted by the Editorial Board October 16, 2014 (received for review August 1, 2014)
How are hormonal contraceptives (HCs) related to marital well-
being? Some work suggests HCs suppress biological processes
associated with womens preferences for partner qualities reflective
of genetic fitness, qualities that may be summarized by facial attrac-
tiveness. Given that realizing such interpersonal preferences posi-
tively predicts relationship satisfaction, any changes in womens
preferences associated with changes in their HC use may interact
with partner facial attractiveness to predict womens relationship
satisfaction. We tested this possibility using two longitudinal studies
of 118 newlywed couples. Trained observers objectively rated hus-
bandsfacial attractiveness in both studies. In study 1, wives reported
their marital satisfaction every6mofor4yandthenreportedthe
history of their HC use for their relationship. In study 2, wives re-
ported whether they were using HCs when they met their husbands
and then their marital satisfaction and HC use every 4 mo for up to
three waves. In both studies, and in an analysis that combined the
data from both studies, wives who were using HCs when they
formed their relationship with their husband were less satisfied with
their marriage when they discontinued HCs if their husband had
a relatively less attractive face, but more satisfied if their husband
had a relatively more attractive face. Beginning HCs demonstrated no
consistent associations with marital satisfaction. Incongruency be-
tween HC use at relationship formation and current HC use was
negatively associated with sexual satisfaction, regardless of hus-
bandsfacial attractiveness. These findings suggest that HC use
may have unintended implications for womens close relationships.
hormonal contraceptives
|
marriage
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physical attractiveness
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evolutionary psychology
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human mating
The majority of women living in industrialized nations use
hormonal contraceptives (HCs) at some point during their
lives (1, 2). Adding to a robust literature that already documents
important intrapersonal implications of HCs (3), a growing litera-
ture suggests that HCs may also have an important interpersonal
implicationthey may affect womens evaluations of their romantic
relationships.
According to biological perspectives on human mating, women
evolvedtobeattractedtopartnerqualities reflective of genetic
fitness, qualities that may be summarized by facial attractiveness (4
7). However, there is some evidence that HC use weakens the
hormonal processes that partially account for these preferences (8)
(for exceptions, see refs. 9 and 10). Specifically, a few studies de-
monstrate that women using HCs show weaker cyclical shifts in
preferences for cues of genetic fitness than do nonusers (1114).
Further, a few additional studies demonstrate that women using
HCs demonstrate weaker overall preferences for cues of genetic
fitness than do nonusers (15, 16). In one study, for example, women
showed a weaker preference for facial masculinity when using HCs
versus not (16).
What then are the implications of HCs for womenslong-term
relationships? Some women use HCs before entering a committed
relationship and thus choose a long-term partner while using HCs.
However, at some point during the relationship, women must
discontinue using HCs to conceive, which the majority of women
eventually do (17). Other women, in contrast, may choose a part-
ner while not using HCs and at some point during the relationship
may begin using HCs as they become sexually active. It is possible
that any changes in preferences for partner genetic fitness associ-
ated with changes in HC use may have implications for womens
relationship satisfaction. According to interdependence theory (18,
19) and supportive research (20), having a partner who meets ones
interpersonal preferences is positively associated with overall re-
lationship satisfaction. Thus, the changes in womenspreferences
for cues of partner genetic fitness that may accompany corre-
sponding changes in their HC use may interact with actual cues of
their partnersgenetic fitness, such as overall facial attractiveness,
to predict womens relationship satisfaction. Specifically, women
who form a relationship when using HCs and later discontinue
using HCs may begin to prioritize cues of partner genetic fitness to
a greater extent and thus experience increases in satisfaction if
their partners face contains numerous cues of genetic fitness (i.e.,
is relatively attractive), but decreases in satisfaction if their part-
ners face contains fewer cues of genetic fitness (i.e., is relatively
less attractive). In contrast, women who form a relationship when
not using HCs and later begin using HCs may begin to prioritize
cues of partner genetic fitness to a lesser extent and thus experi-
ence decreases in satisfaction if their partners face contains nu-
merous cues of genetic fitness (given that such cues may become
less important to them), but subsequent increases in satisfaction if
their partners face contains fewer cues of genetic fitness.
We are aware of two published studies that have examined the
implications of HCs for womens established relationships.
Roberts et al. (21) reported that women who used HCs when
Significance
Hormonal contraceptives (HCs) are believed to suppress
biological processes associated with womens preferences for
cues of partner genetic fitness, cues that may be summarized by
mens facial attractiveness. Two longitudinal studies of marriage
demonstrate that wives who used HCs at relationship formation
became less satisfied when they discontinued HCs if their hus-
band had a relatively less attractive face, but more satisfied if
their husband had a relatively more attractive face. Incongruency
between HC use at relationship formation and current HC use
was negatively associated with sexual satisfaction, regardless of
husbandsfacial attractiveness. Practically, these findings suggest
that discontinuing HCs may have critical unintended effects on
womens relationships. Theoretically, they indicate that evolved
mating processes have implications for established relationships.
Author contributions: V.M.R. and J.K.M. conceptualized the idea; L.R.B. and A.L.M. helped
conceptualize the idea; V.M.R. and J .K.M. designed res earch; V.M.R. and J. K.M. per-
formed research; V.M.R., J.K.M., and L. R.B. analyzed data; an d V.M.R., J.K.M., L .R.B.,
and A.L.M. wrote the paper.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. S.J.C.G. is a guest editor invited by the Editorial Board.
1
To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: vmrussell1@gmail.com or mcnulty@
psy.fsu.edu.
This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.
1073/pnas.1414784111/-/DCSupplemental.
www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1414784111 PNAS Early Edition
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they chose their partner and then bore children with those
partners (and thus must have discontinued using HCs) were less
satisfied with the sexual aspects of their relationships, but more
satisfied with their partnersfinancial provision. Likewise, Roberts
et al. (22) reported that women who discontinued using HCs
during an ongoing relationship reported lower levels of sexual
satisfaction and no changes in satisfaction with their partners
financial provision and intelligence. However, neither of these
studies examined the role of cues of partner genetic fitness. As
noted, any shifts in womens preferences for partner genetic
fitness that coincide with changes in HC use should interact
with such cues to predict womens relationship satisfaction.
We used data obtained from two longitudinal studies to examine
whether the association between wivesHC use and their marital
satisfaction depended on (i)whetherwiveswereusingHCswhen
theyenteredintotheirrelationship with theirhusbandand(ii )their
husbands facial attractiveness. Based on the possibility that HC dis-
continuation leads wives to more strongly prioritize partner facial
attractiveness, we expected HC discontinuation to interact with hus-
bandsfacial attractiveness to predict wivesmarital satisfaction, such
that HC discontinuation would be negatively associated with marital
satisfaction among wives married to husbands with relatively less at-
tractive faces but positively associated with marital satisfaction among
wives married to husbands with relatively more attractive faces. We
also examined whether beginning the use of HCs was positively as-
sociated with marital satisfaction among wives married to husbands
with relatively less attractive faces but negatively associated with
satisfaction among wives married to husbands with relatively more
attractive faces. Finally, we attempted to replicate the association
between changing HC use and wivessexual satisfaction (21, 22).
Materials and Methods
Participants. The participants in study 1 were 48 couples who participated in
a broader longitudinal study of 135 newlywed couples. These 48 couples were
those for whom the wife provided HC data during the fourth and final year of
the study. The wives who did not provide the HC data either had discontinued
the study (n=11), had divorced or separated (n=14), or did not respond
to the inquiry (n=62). No wives refused to provide HC data. The couples who
provided th e data necessary to be included in these analyses did not dif fer
from those who did not provide such data on any of the variables examined
here (P>0.45). The participants in study 2 were 70 couples participating in
a broader longitudinal study of 79 newlywed couples. Nine couples were ex-
cluded because the wives had experienced menopause. See SI Materials and
Methods for details regarding recruitment and sample characteristics.
Procedure. At baseline, couples in both studies were either mailed a packet of
surveys to complete at home and bring with them to a laboratory session or
emailed a link to Qualtrics.com, where they completed surveys online before
their laboratory session. These surveys included a consent form approved by
the University of Tennessee Institutional Review Board and the Florida State
University Human Subjects Committee, measures of marital and sexual sat-
isfaction, other measures beyond the scope of the current analyses, and
a letter instructing couples to complete their questionnaires independently
of one another. In study 2, wives also reported whether they were pregnant
and, if not, whether they were currently using HCs and whether the couple
was trying to get pregnant. During the laboratory session, each member of
the couple was photographed and couples completed other tasks beyond
the scope of the current analyses. Couples in study 1 were paid US$80 and
couples in study 2 were paid US$100 for completing this baseline phase.
Subsequent to the baseline session, couples in study 1 were contacted ap-
proximately every 6 to 8 mo for 4 y and mailed the same marital and sexual
satisfaction measures, as well as other measures beyond the scope of the
current analyses. Couples in study 2 were contacted every 4 mo up to three
times and emailed a link to the same marital and sexual satisfaction measures,
the same measure of HC use and pregnancy-related issues, and other measures
beyond the scope of the current analyses. Couples in study 1 were paid US$50
and couples in study 2 were paid US$25 for completing these phases.
During the fourth and final year of study 1 (when the current hypotheses
were developed), wives were contacted via phone or email and asked to
provide information regarding their HC use over the entire course of their
relationship. Wiveswho responded wereprovided a link to Surveymonkey.com,
where they were asked to provide consent to answer additional questions
regarding their HC use. Participating wives were mailed US$25.
Measures.
WivesHC use at relationship formation. We asked wives in both studies whether
they were using HCs when they began their relationship with their husband
and dummy-coded their responses (0 =no, 1 =yes).
WivesHC use during their relationship. In study 1, we asked wives to retrospec-
tively list the types of HCs they used since they began their relationship and the
start and end dates for the periods during which they used each type of HC.
Although prior research has demonstrated that women are relatively accurate
when reporting their HC history (23), we took two steps to increase the accuracy
of their reports. First, we encouraged wives to consult their physician and/or
medical records if they were unsure of the type used or the period during which
they used it. Second, we verified that the type (and brand, if provided) of birth
control listed was in fact hormonal. We used this information to create a
dummy code indicating whether or not wives had used HCs during each phase
of data collection (0 =no, 1 =yes). [Progesterone-only HC formulations may
affect mate preferences differently than HC formulations containing estrogen
(24). No women reported using progesterone-only formulations when they
began their relationships with their husbands and one woman reported using
a progesterone-only formulation during the final two assessments of the study.
Notably, subsequent analyses indicated the three-way interaction remained
significant when excluding the two assessments during which that wife used
a progesterone-only HC; t(219) =2.26, P=0.03.]
In study 2, we asked wives at each assessment whether they were using
HCs. We then formed a dummy code indicating whether they were using HCs
at the time they completed the assessment (0 =no, 1 =yes).
Facial attractiveness. According to some perspectives, facial attractiveness sum-
marizes overall genetic fitness (47). Given that our predictions regard overall
genetic fitness, rather than any specific cue of genetic fitness (e.g., masculinity,
symmetry, MHC heterogeneity), a group of trained research assistants (n=5in
study 1; n=4 in study 2) rated the facial attractiveness of each spouse from the
photographs that were taken at baseline, using a scale ranging from 1 to 10,
where higher ratings indicated more physically attractive faces. In both studies,
participants stood in front of a blank, white wall and were told to maintain
a comfortable expression while their photograph was taken. The photographs
used in study 1 depicted the spousesfaces from the shoulders up, and all
judges were instructed to rate the facial attractiveness only. The photographs
used in study 2 were similar, except they were additionally cropped so that only
the spousesfaces were shown. To further ensure that ratings of husbands
facial attractiveness were not confounded with ratings of their body attrac-
tiveness, which may be less indicative of genetic fitness, judges also rated
separate photographs that depicted the bodies of husbands in both studies,
and we controlled for these ratings in supplemental analyses. Coders rated
each spouse independently. The reliability of our coders was adequate [in
study 1, interclass correlation (ICC) =0.78 for husbands and ICC =0.92 for
wives; in study 2, ICC =0.85 for husbands and ICC =0.88 for wives]. We used
the mean attractiveness ratings across judges as our measure of each spouses
facial attractiveness.
Marital satisfaction. Although prior work examining the role of HCsfor womens
satisfaction with nonsexual aspects of their relationship (21, 22) has examined
their satisfaction with specific aspects of the relationship (e.g., partnersfi-
nancial provision, intelligence), we used a global measure of marital satisfac-
tion to capture the extent to which wives were generally satisfied with their
marriages because we believed such a global evaluation would be most likely
to capture the extent to which wives were susceptible to the interactive effects
of their shifting preferences for cues of genetic fitness and their husbands
facial attractiveness. Indeed, relationship scholars (25, 26) have pointed out
that examining the effects of specific processes (e.g., behavior, cognition,
preferences) on evaluations of a relationship requires assessing global evalu-
ations of the marriage. We assessed marital satisfaction in both studies with
the Quality Marriage Index (27), a measure that requires spouses to report
their agreement with six general statements regarding their marital satisfac-
tion (e.g., My relationship with my partner makes me happy). Five items use
a seven-point scale and one item uses a 10-point scale. All items were summed
for each participant. Internal consistency was acceptable (in study 1, α>0.85
for husbands and 0.88 for wives at each assessment; in study 2, α>0.95 for
husbands and 0.92 for wives at each assessment).
Sexual satisfaction. In study 1, sexual satisfaction was assessed with the Index of
Sexual Satisfaction (28), a measure that requires spouses to report their
agreement with 25 statements regarding their satisfaction with the sexual
relationship with their spouse using a seven-point scale (sample items in-
clude, Sex is fun for my partner and me). All items were summed for each
participant. Internal consistency was acceptable (α>0.94 for husbands and
wives at each assessment). In study 2, sexual satisfaction was assessed with
one item (i.e., How satisfied are you with the quality of the sex you have
had with your spouse over the past 4 mo?) using a seven-point scale.
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Results
Sixteen (33%) of the 48 wives in study 1 and 37 (53%) of the 70
wives in study 2 reported using HCs at relationship formation. Ten
(63%) of these wives in study 1 and 17 (46%) of these wives in study
2 reported discontinuing HCs at some point during their relation-
ship. Ratings of husbandsfacial attractiveness were normally dis-
tributed in both studies (in study 1, skewness =0.12, kurtosis =
0.42; in study 2, skewness =0.43, kurtosis =0.20). Growth curve
analyses indicated that these wives experienced declines in their
satisfaction over time [in study 1, b=0.17, SE =0.05, t(234) =
3.23, P<0.01; in study 2, b=0.21, SE =0.06, t(156) =3.40,
P<0.01]. Although partial correlations between wivesHC use at
relationship formation and husbandsfacial attractiveness, con-
trolling for wivesfacial attractiveness, did not reach significance in
study 1 (r=0.15, P=0.31) or study 2 (r=0.09, P=0.47), this
correlation was marginally significant in an analysis that combined
thedatafrombothstudies(r=0.16, P=0.09), providing some
evidence that wives who used HCs at relationship formation chose
less attractive husbands. Husbandsfacial attractiveness was not
significantly associated with whether or not wives discontinued HCs
[in study 1, b=0.09, SE =0.13, t(44) =0.71, P=0.48; in study 2,
b=0.09, SE =0.09, t(66) =0.88, P=0.32]. Descriptive statistics
and bivariate correlations for each study appear in Table S1.
To ease interpretation of parameter estimates, all of the fol-
lowing primary analyses were conducted using standardized ver-
sions of all continuous independent variables and grand-centered
values of all HC variables. We first tested the main effect of wives
HC use for their marital and sexual satisfaction, without accounting
for whether they were using HCs at relationship formation or their
husbandsattractiveness. Using multilevel modeling, we regressed
wivesreports of satisfaction at each assessment onto the dummy
code indicating whether wives used HCs at each assessment. To
control the influence of relationship-specific factors and changes in
each type of satisfaction over time, we controlled for month of
assessment and husbandscorresponding levels of satisfaction by
estimating the following two-level model using the HLM 7 com-
puter program (Scientific Software International) (Eq. 1):
YtiðwivessatisfactionÞ=b0i +b1i ðmonth of assessmentÞ
+b2iðhusbandssatisfactionÞ
+b3iðHC statusÞ+e0ti +r0i :
[1]
We estimated Eq. 1six times: once for each type of satisfaction
(marital and sexual) in each study and once for each type of
satisfaction combining the data across studies, but controlling
for idiosyncratic differences between studies using a dummy
code. In the combined analyses, wivessexual satisfaction was
standardized before combining the data due to the different
measures used in the two studies.
Results are presented in the section of Table 1 labeled as
model A. HC use was unassociated with either type of satisfac-
tion on average across all analyses except one: Among wives in
study 1, HC use was negatively associated with wivesmarital
satisfaction, indicating that wives in study 1 were less satisfied
with their marriages on average when they used HCs. This as-
sociation did not reach significance in the other five analyses.
Next, we tested whether the associations between wivesHC
use and satisfaction estimated in the previous analyses were
moderated by whether they were using HCs at relationship for-
mationi.e., whether beginning or discontinuing HCs was as-
sociated with wivesmarital or sexual satisfaction. To do this, we
repeated the previous analyses except we also entered the
dummy code indicating whether wives were using HCs at re-
lationship formation to account for variance in the intercept and
current HC status slope estimates in the second level of the
model to create the current HC status ×HC status at relation-
ship formation interaction with the following equation (Eq. 2):
YtiðwivessatisfactionÞ
=b0i +b1iðmonth of assessmentÞ
+b2iðhusbandssatisfactionÞ
+b3iðcurrent HC statusÞ
+b4iðHC status at relationship formationÞ
+b5iðcurrent HC status
×HC status at relationship formationÞ+e0ti +r0i :[2]
In this model, the current HC status ×HC status at relationship
formation interaction tests the effect of HC congruency (i.e., begin-
ning or discontinuing HC use) on satisfaction. These tests are very
similar to the tests conducted by Roberts et al. (22), with the ex-
ception that our measure of relationship satisfaction was intention-
ally more global.
Results are presented in the section of Table 1 labeled as
model B. The current HC status ×HC status at relationship
formation interaction was not associated with wivesmarital sat-
isfaction, indicating that HC congruency was unrelated with
general relationship satisfaction, on average. Nevertheless, as can
be seen in Table 1, the current HC status ×HC status at re-
lationship formation interaction was positively associated with
wivessexual satisfaction in all three analyses, indicating that HC
congruency was positively associated with wivessexual satisfac-
tion in both studies and the analysis that combined the two
studies. Replicating prior research (21, 22), wives who were using
HCs at relationship formation became less sexually satisfied when
they discontinued HCs in all three analyses [in study 1, t(188) =
2.23, P=0.03; in study 2, t(82) =2.07, P=0.04; in combined, t
(274) =2.89, P<0.01]. Further, wives who were not using HCs
at relationship formation also became less sexually satisfied when
they began using HCs in study 1 and the combined analysis, [in
study 1, t(188) =2.13, P=0.03; in combined, t(274) =1.99,
P<0.05]. Although this effect did not quite reach significance
in study 2 [t(82) =1.06, not significant (NS)], it also did not
differ statistically across the two studies [t(272) =0.00, NS].
Finally, we tested our primary prediction that the association
between HC congruency and wivesmarital satisfaction depends on
husbandsfacial attractiveness. To do this, we repeated the previous
analyses except this time we additionally added husbandsfacial
attractiveness, and the HC status at relationship formation ×hus-
bandsfacial attractiveness interaction to account for variance in the
intercept and current HC status slope estimates in the second level
of the model to create the crucial current HC status ×HC status at
relationship formation ×husbandsfacial attractiveness interaction
and all lower level interactions with the following model (Eq. 3):
YtiðwivessatisfactionÞ
=b0i +b1iðmonth of assessmentÞ
+b2iðhusbandssatisfactionÞ+b3i ðcurrent HC statusÞ
+b4iðHC status at relationship formationÞ
+b5iðhusbandsfacial attractivenessÞ
+b6iðcurrent HC status
×HC status at relationship formationÞ
+b7iðcurrent HC status
×husbandsfacial attractivenessÞ
+b8iðHC status at relationship formation
×husbandsfacial attractivenessÞ
+b9iðcurrent HC status
×HC status at relationship formation
×husbandsfacial attractivenessÞ+e0ti +r0i:[3]
In this model, the current HC status ×HC status at relationship
formation ×husbandsfacial attractiveness interaction tests
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whether the association between HC congruency and satisfaction
depends on husbandsfacial attractiveness.
Results are presented in the section of Table 1 labeled as
model C. The current HC status ×HC status at relationship
formation ×husbandsfacial attractiveness interaction was not
associated with wivessexual satisfaction in any of the analyses.
Nevertheless, the current HC status ×HC status at relationship
formation ×husbandsfacial attractiveness interaction was
negatively associated with wivesmarital satisfaction in all three
analyses. Notably, this interaction remained significant when
controlling for wivesfacial attractiveness and husbandsbody
attractiveness in study 1 [t(176) =2.34, P=0.02] and the
combined analysis [t(261) =2.41, P=0.02], and wivesfacial
attractiveness, husbandsbody attractiveness, whether wives were
pregnant, and whether the couple was trying to get pregnant in
study 2 [t(75) =3.41, P<0.01].
Tests of the simple two-way interactions among wives not
using HCs when they formed their relationships revealed that
husbandsfacial attractiveness did not moderate the effects of
HC use in any of the three analyses, although it was marginally
significant in study 2 [in study 1, t(176) =1.17, NS; in study 2,
t(79) =1.98, P=0.05; in combined, t(261) =0.58, NS]. Further,
the pattern of main effects of HC use among wives not using HCs
at relationship formation was inconsistent across studies 1 and 2
[in study 1, t(176) =3.11, P<0.01; in study 2, t(79) =3.01, P<
0.01] and nonsignificant in the analysis that combined the data
from the two studies [t(261) =0.53, NS]. In other words, be-
ginning HC use did not have consistent effects on wivesmarital
satisfaction and the effects that did emerge did not reliably de-
pend on husbandsattractiveness.
Tests of the simple two-way interactions among wives who were
using HCs at relationship formation, in contrast, revealed that
husbandsfacial attractiveness did moderate the effects of HC use
in all three analyses [in study 1, t(176) =2.01, P<0.05; in study
2, t(79) =2.56, P=0.01; in combined, t(261) =2.45, P=0.02].
These significant interactions are plotted in Fig. 1. Given that
husbandsfacial attractiveness was a continuous variable, we
followed the recommendation of Preacher et al. (29) to use the
JohnsonNeyman method to identify one-tailed regions of sig-
nificance of the simple effects of HC use among these wivesi.e.,
the exact levels of husbandsattractiveness at which HC discon-
tinuation demonstrated significant associations with wivesmari-
tal satisfaction. Consistent with predictions, discontinuing HCs
was positively associated with marital satisfaction among wives
Table 1. Associations between wivesmarital satisfaction and initial contraceptive status, current contraceptive status, husbands
facial attractiveness, and their interactions
Independent
variables
Marital satisfaction Sexual satisfaction
Study 1 Study 2 Combined Study 1 Study 2 Combined
brbrbr b rbrbr
Model A
Intercept 40.23 40.08 39.95 139.36 5.82 0.02
Study ————1.49 0.17 — ———0.01 0.01
Month of assessment 1.11** 0.24 1.05** 0.33 1.22** 0.24 0.64 0.04 0.11 0.19 0.05 0.05
Husbandssatisfaction 1.44* 0.17 3.91** 0.45 2.57** 0.24 10.71** 0.45 0.29** 0.29 0.36** 0.35
CHCS 1.57* 0.17 1.48 0.17 0.37 0.04 1.97 0.06 0.16 0.09 0.01 0.01
Model B
Intercept 40.23 40.28 39.95 139.20 5.77 0.03
Study ————1.72* 0.19 — ———0.04 0.03
Month of assessment 1.10** 0.24 1.03** 0.32 1.22** 0.24 0.65 0.04 0.11 0.19 0.05 0.06
Husbandssatisfaction 1.44* 0.17 3.87** 0.47 2.55** 0.24 10.35** 0.44 0.31** 0.32 0.37** 0.36
CHCS 1.44* 0.15 1.39 0.17 0.46 0.05 0.26 0.01 0.11 0.06 0.08 0.06
HCRF 0.54 0.07 0.64 0.08 1.00 0.12 2.85 0.10 0.21 0.11 0.06 0.04
CHCS ×HCRF 1.19 0.07 3.62 0.21 0.16 0.01 15.08** 0.21 0.83* 0.23 0.64** 0.20
Model C
§
Intercept 40.27 40.29 40.00 138.63 5.84 0.03
Study ————2.00* 0.21 — ———0.06 0.04
Month of assessment 1.09** 0.23 0.96** 0.30 1.23** 0.23 0.57 0.04 0.12 0.20 0.05 0.07
Husbandssatisfaction 1.41* 0.17 4.25** 0.52 2.60** 0.25 10.65** 0.45 0.31** 0.34 0.36** 0.36
CHCS 1.71** 0.19 1.63 0.20 0.59 0.06 0.59 0.02 0.21 0.13 0.07 0.04
HCRF 0.59 0.07 1.20 0.15 1.21 0.14 3.58 0.13 0.17 0.10 0.08 0.05
CHCS ×HCRF 1.04 0.07 4.52* 0.27 0.36 0.02 17.07** 0.27 0.47 0.15 0.60** 0.18
HFA 0.40 0.09 0.50 0.14 0.42 0.10 0.31 0.02 0.05 0.07 0.03 0.04
CHCS ×HFA 0.32 0.04 0.67 0.09 0.87 0.08 2.60 0.08 0.43* 0.28 0.13 0.08
HCRF ×HFA 0.00 0.00 1.65 0.23 0.10 0.01 5.95 0.19 0.50* 0.30 0.00 0.00
CHCS ×HCRF ×HFA 3.64* 0.17 5.46** 0.34 2.96* 0.14 3.79 0.04 0.24 0.08 0.29 0.09
CHCS, current HC status; HCRF, HC status at relationship formation; HFA, husbandsfacial attractiveness; r, effect size r.
*P<0.05; **P<0.01.
Study 1, df =179 for marital satisfaction and df =189 for sexual satisfaction; study 2, df =82 for all other effects in marital satisfaction model and df =83 for
all other effects in sexual satisfaction model; combined, df =116 for study, df =264 for all other effects in marital satisfaction model, and df =275 for all other
effects in sexual satisfaction model.
Study 1, df =46 for HCRF, df =178 for all other effects in marital satisfaction model, and df =188 for all other effects in sexual satisfaction model; study 2, df =
68 for HCRF, df =81 for all other effects in marital satisfaction model, and df =82 for all other effects in sexual satisfaction model; combined, df =115 for study
and HCRF, df =263 for all other effects in marital satisfaction model, and df =274 for all other effects in sexual satisfaction model.
§
Study 1, df =44 for HFA, HCRF, and HFA ×HCRF, df =176 for all other effects in marital satisfaction model, and df =186 for all other effects in sexual
satisfaction model; study 2, df =66 for HFA, HCRF, and HFA ×HCRF, df =79 for all other effects in marital satisfaction model and df =80 for all other effects in
sexual satisfaction model; combined, df =113 for study, HFA, HCRF, and HFA ×HCRF, df =261 for all other effects in marital satisfaction model, and df =272
for all other effects in sexual satisfaction model. Wivessexual satisfaction was standardized in the combined analyses.
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with husbands who had faces relatively more attractive than the
mean (>0.46 SDs in study 1, >0.53 SDs in study 2, and >0.25 SDs
in the combined analysis), but negatively associated with marital
satisfaction among wives with husbands who had faces relatively
less attractive than the mean (<1.80 SDs in study 1, <1.16 SDs in
study 2, and <1.34 SDs in the combined analysis).
Although our primary focus regarded the moderating role of
husbandsattractiveness, we also examined the simple associa-
tions between husbandsattractiveness and wivesmarital satis-
faction for wives who did versus did not discontinue HCs.
Consistent with expectations, husbandsfacial attractiveness
trended toward being positively associated with marital satis-
faction among wives who discontinued HCs [in study 1, t(44) =
1.73, P=0.09; in study 2, t(66) =1.97, P=0.05; in combined,
t(113) =1.69, P=0.09]. In contrast, husbandsfacial attrac-
tiveness was unassociated with marital satisfaction among wives
who continued using HCs in studies 1 and 2 [in study 1, t(44) =
0.93, P=0.36; in study 2, t(66) =1.61, P=0.11], although it
was marginally negatively associated with marital satisfaction
among such wives in the combined analysis [t(113) =1.731,
P=0.09].
Discussion
A growing body of research demonstrates that evolved processes
have implications for established relationships (3036). In one set
of studies, naturally cycling women who described their partners as
more physically desirable experienced increased satisfaction with
those partners while fertile, whereas such women who described
their partners as less physically desirable experienced decreased
satisfaction with those partners while fertile (36).
However, HCs are believed to suppress the biological processes
that account for these effects and thus may have unintended con-
sequences for relationships (8). Providing some initial evidence for
such effects, Roberts et al. (21, 22) demonstrated that women who
began or discontinued HCs during their relationships were less
satisfied with sexual aspects of their relationships. The current re-
search provided a valuable independent replication of that research
by revealing that beginning or discontinuing HCs was negatively
associated with womens sexual satisfaction in two longitudinal
studies of marriage. However, these two studies also extended this
prior work by revealing that the association between discontinuing
HCs and womens marital satisfaction depended on their husbands
facial attractiveness; whereas discontinuing HCs was associated
with greater marital satisfaction among wives with relatively more
attractive husbands, it was associated with lower satisfaction among
wives with relatively less attractive husbands. Likewise, husbands
attractiveness was positively associated with satisfaction among
wives who discontinued using HCs. Partner attractiveness was un-
associated with wivessatisfaction among wives who continued using
HCs in each study, but negatively associated with wivessatisfaction
in the analysis that combined the data from the two studies. Hus-
bandsfacial attractiveness did not moderate the effects of wives
HC use on sexual satisfaction.
The fact that husbandsfacial attractiveness moderated the
association between HC use and wivesmarital but not sexual
satisfaction suggests that HC congruency may be associated with
marital and sexual satisfaction for different reasons. As others
have argued (30, 37, 38), global relationship satisfaction may
serve as a barometer of the extent to which the relationship
meets evolved preferences and needs. If so, the hormonal fluc-
tuations that coincide with ovulation may be an important cir-
cuitry through which this link emerges. Given that HCs are
thought to disrupt this circuitry, it makes sense that they would
weaken the extent to which relationship satisfaction is sensitive
to any cues of partner genetic fitness, including facial attrac-
tiveness. Discontinuing HCs may interact with husbandsfacial
attractiveness because it recalibrates womens relationship sat-
isfaction to be more sensitive to such cues. Sexual satisfaction as
measured here (28), in contrast, captures the extent to which
partners derive physical pleasure from their sexual activities. In
this light, any changes in sexual satisfaction should be due to
either changes in preferences for or attitudes toward sexual activi-
ties, or changes in sexual activities themselves. Perhaps, then, the
association between changes in HC use and decreases in sexual
satisfaction is due to hormonal shifts associated with changes
in sexual preferences, attitudes, and/or behaviors that are inde-
pendent of cues of partner genetic fitness. Future research may
benefit from addressing these possibilities.
Notably, we did not find consistent evidence that beginning
HCs since relationship formation was associated with wives
marital satisfaction. Interestingly, prior research (22) also failed
to document consistent effects of beginning HCs for womens
satisfaction with their partners financial provision/intelligence.
As others have argued (16), HCs may have their effects through
partner choice; women who make such choices while not using
HCs may be immune from later effects of HC use on their
general satisfaction. Indeed, prior research indicates that women
who used HCs at relationship formation tend to choose partners
with less masculine faces (16) and there was some weak evidence
that the women using HCs at relationship formation in our
studies chose less attractive husbands. Future research may
benefit by examining whether the null effects of beginning HCs
on marital satisfaction observed here and in prior research are
moderated by other factors, such as specific cues of partner ge-
netic fitness or factors not linked to genetic fitness.
Our confidence in these findings is enhanced by several
strengths. First, the key findings emerged (i) across two in-
dependent longitudinal studies, (ii) in an analysis that combined
the data across both studies, and (iii) controlling for numerous
potential confounds. Second, both studies relied partly on
within-person changes in HCs, helping to rule out the influence
A
B
C
Fig. 1. Husbandsfacial attractiveness moderating the association between
wivesHC discontinuation and their marital satisfaction in study 1 (A), study
2(B), and the combined analyses (C).
Russell et al. PNAS Early Edition
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PSYCHOLOGICAL AND
COGNITIVE SCIENCES
of any between-person differences associated with HC discon-
tinuation. Third, the predicted effect remained significant con-
trolling for wivesreports of whether couples were attempting to
become pregnant in study 2, which helps rule out the possibility
that it was wivesmotivations to become pregnant, rather than
hormonal changes associated with discontinuing HCs, that
interacted with husbandsattractiveness to account for wives
satisfaction. Finally, the analyses provided evidence of a theo-
retical moderator of the influence of HCs on relationship satis-
factionpartner facial attractivenessstrengthening the extent
to which these results provide evidence that the effects emerged
due to the influence of HCs on evolved preferences for cues of
partner genetic fitness.
Nevertheless, several factors limit the interpretations and
generalizability of these results until they can be replicated and
extended. First, although the within-person design of these
studies helps rule out the influence of between-person differ-
ences, and although we controlled for important within-person
confounds, it remains possible that other confounding factors not
controlled in our analyses account for the interactive effects of
HC discontinuation. Only experimental research can definitively
rule out such alternative explanations. Second, the two samples
were relatively homogenous and relied on relatively modest
sample sizes. Any generalizations should be made with caution
until the findings can be replicated with a larger and more rep-
resentative sample. Third, given that previous research suggests
that estrogen may partially account for womens mate prefer-
ences (39), and given that HCs vary in the amount of estrogen
they contain, it is possible that the current effects may be
stronger among women using HCs that contain lower amounts of
estrogen and weaker, or even nonexistent, among women using
HCs that contain higher amounts of estrogen. Of course, given
that HCs contain synthetic rather than endogenous hormones, it
is also possible that their effects may differ from the effects as-
sociated with endogenous hormones. Future research may ben-
efit from examining this possibility. Likewise, future research
may benefit from exploring whether the effects observed here
were driven by the peaks in endogenous estrogen experienced by
women once they discontinue HCs. Fourth, although some
perspectives posit that facial attractiveness is a powerful pre-
dictor of genetic fitness (47), the current study did not examine
the role of specific indicators of genetic fitness, such as sym-
metry, dominance, or partnersMHC dissimilarity. Future re-
search may benefit by attempting to conceptually replicate these
results using specific measures of these constructs to determine if
one or multiple indicators have similar or different implications.
Finally, it is worth highlighting the potential practical impli-
cations of this research. Marital satisfaction is strongly associated
with mental (40) and physical health (41); occupational out-
comes (42); life satisfaction (43); and a host of physical, mental,
and social outcomes for children (44). The fact that wivesHC
use was linked to their marital satisfaction suggests that HCs may
have far-reaching implications, both beneficial and harmful.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. This work was supported by a National Science
Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant DGEI246794 (to
V.M.R.) and the National Institute of Child Health and Development Grant
RHD058314 (to J.K.M.).
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Supporting Information
Russell et al. 10.1073/pnas.1414784111
SI Materials and Methods
At baseline in both studies, couples were recruited from com-
munities in and around the study locations (eastern Tennessee for
study 1 and northwestern Florida for study 2). Couples in both
studies were recruited using advertisements in community news-
papers and bridal shops, and letters sent to couples who had ap-
plied for marriage licenses in the area; couples in study 2 were
additionally recruited using Facebook advertisements. Responding
couples were screened via telephone interview to determine eli-
gibility according to the following criteria important to the broader
aims of the study: (i) the couple had been married fewer than 3
mo, (ii) each partner was at least 18 y of age, and (iii )eachpartner
spoke English. Additionally, couples in study 1 were required to
(i) be in their first marriage, (ii) have completed at least 10 y of
education (to ensure comprehension of the questionnaires), and
(iii) not already have children and involve wives who were not
older than 35 y (to allow a similar probability of transitioning to
first parenthood for all couples).
At baseline, wives in study 1 were 24.25 y old (SD =2.87) and
had completed 16.34 y of education (SD =1.96); wives in study 2
were 28.90 y old (SD =5.94) and had completed 16.81 y of
education (SD =2.42). The majority of wives were Caucasian
(96% in study 1; 73% in study 2). At baseline, husbands in study
1 were 25.60 y old (SD =3.57) and had completed 16.54 y of
education (SD =2.24); husbands in study 2 were 31.03 y old
(SD =7.16) and had completed 16.07 y of education (SD =
2.62). The majority of husbands also were Caucasian (94% in
study 1; 73% in study 2).
Table S1. Descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations among variables
Independent variables 1 2 3 4 5 6 M SD
Study 1
1. HC status at relationship formation ———33%
2. Wivesmarital satisfaction at baseline 0.00 ———42.31 3.48
3. Husbandsmarital satisfaction at baseline 0.04 0.67** ——42.67 3.06
4. Wivessexual satisfaction at baseline 0.15 0.46** 0.42** ——146.71 21.92
5. Husbandssexual satisfaction at baseline 0.14 0.28
0.58** 0.64** ——148.26 23.17
6. Wivesfacial attractiveness 0.05 0.11 0.04 0.06 0.15 4.73 1.31
7. Husbandsfacial attractiveness 0.15 0.04 0.04 0.06 0.21 0.52** 4.83 1.01
Study 2
1. HC status at relationship formation ———53%
2. Wivesmarital satisfaction at baseline 0.07 ———42.13 4.04
3. Husbandsmarital satisfaction at baseline 0.06 0.55** ——42.00 5.11
4. Wivessexual satisfaction at baseline 0.10 0.11 0.00 ——6.07 0.97
5. Husbandssexual satisfaction at baseline 0.17 0.08 0.04 0.23
—— 5.70 1.55
6. Wivesfacial attractiveness 0.20 0.03 0.11 0.09 0.02 4.44 1.33
7. Husbandsfacial attractiveness 0.01 0.01 0.05 0.02 0.05 0.44** 4.31 1.00
P<0.10; *P<0.05; **P<0.01.
Russell et al. www.pnas.org/cgi/content/short/1414784111 1of1
... When they find such a desirable partner, people typically strive to maintain their relationship by employing strategies that protect it against the allure of alternative mates (e.g., being less attentive to, and devaluating the attractiveness of, alternatives; Lydon and Karremans 2015). Unfortunately, the commonly used contraceptive pills may alter mate selection processes, thereby spoiling relationship bliss and rendering once-promising relationships less rewarding (Roberts et al. 2014;Russell et al. 2014). In the present research, we investigated the role of contraceptive pill use in increasing the likelihood of women's extradyadic attraction. ...
... Indeed, the use of hormonal contraceptives may not only affect initial partner choice but also have unintended consequences for women's relationship satisfaction, if contraceptive pill use subsequently changes. Prior studies have provided evidence for this hypothesis, indicating that women who had used hormonal contraceptives when they first met their partner and then ceased to take them experience lower levels of sexual and relationship satisfaction Roberts et al. 2014;Russell et al. 2014) and are more likely to get divorced (Birnbaum et al. 2017). ...
... The present research sought to examine whether the adverse relationship implications of cessation of contraceptive pill use in women who used pills during relationship onset (Birnbaum et al. 2017;Roberts et al. 2014;Russell et al. 2014) extend to increased likelihood of extradyadic attraction. Specifically, we examined whether women who had used hormonal contraceptives during relationship formation and later discontinued their usage would be particularly likely to be sexually attracted to attractive alternative mates during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, as compared to women who either had not used pills at relationship formation or had used pills at relationship formation but did not stop using them. ...
Article
Full-text available
Hormonal contraceptives change women's natural mate preferences, leading them to prefer nurturing but less genetically-compatible men. Cessation of contraceptives reverses these preferences, decreasing women's attraction to current partners. Two studies examined whether women who had used contraceptive pills at relationship formation and stopped doing so were more vulnerable to desire attractive alternatives, primarily around ovulation, as compared to women who had not used pills at relationship formation or had used pills then but didn't stop using them. In Study 1, participants watched videos of attractive and average-looking men and described imaginary dates with them, which were coded for desire expressions. In Study 2, we measured attention adhesion to attractive and average-looking men. Results showed that women who stopped using pills and were currently in high-fertility phase were especially likely to attend to, and express desire for, attractive alternatives, suggesting that cessation of contraceptives motivates the pursuit of more suitable mates.
... Due, at least in part, to these physiological changes, HCs have been implicated in a wide variety of psychological processes and outcomes, including but not limited to depression (Skovlund, Mørch, Kessing, & Lidegaard, 2016;Young, Midgley, Carlson, & Brown, 2000), reward processing (Scheele, Plota, Stoffel-Wagner, Maier, & Hurlemann, 2015), and emotion recognition (Hamstra, De Rover, De Rijk, With respect to their romantic relationships, many women begin or discontinue using HCs numerous times after meeting their partner, thereby regularly altering their natural hormonal profiles and brain structures from those that evolved to those dictated by modern medicine. And there is reason to believe such changes negatively impact women's long-term relationship outcomes (for a similar argument, see Roberts, Cobey, Klapilová, & Havlíček, 2013;Roberts et al., 2014;Russell, McNulty, Baker, & Meltzer, 2014). Drawing from interdependence theory (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978), which is the predominant relationship-science perspective on how people evaluate their relationships, people's satisfaction depends on the extent to which their relationship experiences and outcomes meet their relationship preferences, or their relationship standards. ...
... Consistent with this rationale, the HC congruency hypothesis (Roberts et al., 2013) posits that changes in women's HC use relative to relationship formation can negatively impact their subsequent sexual and relationship satisfaction (see Roberts et al., 2014;Russell et al., 2014). The core tenet underlying this hypothesis is that a partnered woman should be less satisfied at times when her HC use is incongruent with her HC use at relationship formation relative to times when her own HC use is congruent with her HC use at relationship formation. ...
... Although some recent empirical work has provided preliminary support for the HC congruency hypothesis (Roberts et al., 2014;Russell et al., 2014;c.f. Jern et al., 2018), none of this work utilized a longitudinal design to statistically isolate the within-person variability in women's HC incongruency. ...
Article
Modern-day environments differ drastically from those in which humans evolved, which likely has important implications for human mating psychology. Particularly notable is the modern advancement of hormonal contraceptives (HCs), which alter the natural hormones of the many women who use them. According to the HC congruency hypothesis, HCs alter sex hormones and brain processes that are linked to numerous relationship preferences. In light of work suggesting such preferences play an important role in relationship evaluations, changing HC use during a long-term relationship (relative to use at relationship formation) should impact women's relationships. We used data from two independent longitudinal studies of 203 newlywed couples to address this possibility. Results demonstrated that wives reported lower sexual satisfaction (but not marital satisfaction) when their HC use was incongruent (versus congruent) with their use at relationship formation. These findings provide preliminary support for the HC congruency hypothesis, though we also broaden our theoretical framework to offer methodological recommendations for future research.
... Studies based on the congruency hypothesis reported associations between incongruent use of contraception and decreased perceived partner attractiveness , decreased relationship satisfaction but see French & Meltzer, 2020;Roberts, Little, et al., 2014), decreased sexual satisfaction (French & Meltzer, 2020;Roberts et al., 2012;Roberts, Little, et al., 2014;Russell et al., 2014), increased satisfaction with partner's paternal provision , increased jealousy ( Cobey et al., 2013), and increased appeal of alternative mates (Birnbaum et al., 2019). ...
... While these findings do not support most of the literature based on the congruency hypothesis (Birnbaum et al., 2019;Cobey et al., 2013;French & Meltzer, 2020;Roberts et al., 2012;Roberts, Little, et al., 2014;Russell et al., 2014), they are in line with a recent large-scale replication attempt by Jern et al. (2018). Marcinkowska et al. (2019) provided additional evidence that questions the congruency hypothesis: In a large-scale study (n = 6,482), they found no evidence that women using the pill had weaker preferences for male facial masculinity than did women not using the pill. ...
Article
Many of the women who take hormonal contraceptives discontinue because of unwanted side effects, including negative psychological effects. Yet scientific evidence of psychological effects is mixed, partly because causal claims are often based on correlational data. In correlational studies, possible causal effects can be difficult to separate from selection effects, attrition effects, and reverse causality. Contraceptive use and, according to the congruency hypothesis, congruent contraceptive use (whether a woman’s current use/non-use of a hormonal contraceptive is congruent with her use/non-use at the time of meeting her partner) have both been thought to influence relationship quality and sexual functioning. In order to address potential issues of observed and unobserved selection effects in correlational data, we studied a sample of up to 1,179 women to investigate potential effects of contraceptive use and congruent contraceptive use on several measures of relationship quality and sexual functioning: perceived partner attractiveness, relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and diary measurements including libido, frequency of vaginal intercourse, and frequency of masturbation. No evidence for substantial effects was found except for a positive effect of hormonal contraceptives on frequency of vaginal intercourse and a negative effect of hormonal contraceptives on frequency of masturbation. These effects were robust to the inclusion of observed confounders, and their sensitivity to unobserved confounders was estimated. No support for the congruency hypothesis was found. Our correlational study was able to disentangle, to some extent, causal effects of hormonal contraceptives from selection effects by estimating the sensitivity of reported effects. To reconcile experimental and observational evidence on hormonal contraceptives, future research should scrutinize the role of unobserved selection effects, attrition effects, and reverse causality.
... Empirical evidence supports this notion. Women who use hormonal contraceptives when they meet their long-term partners and later discontinue those contraceptives report lower sexual satisfaction (Roberts et al. 2014) and relationship satisfaction (Russell et al. 2014) compared to those women who meet their long-term partners while using hormonal contraceptives and continue using those contraceptives (but also see Jern et al. 2018). Interestingly, the association between women's congruency in hormonal contraceptive use and relationship satisfaction depends on their long-term partners' facial attractivenesswomen who meet their longterm partners while using hormonal contraceptives and later discontinue those contraceptives report increased relationship satisfaction if their partners have more attractive faces, but they report decreased relationship satisfaction if their partners have less attractive faces (Russell et al. 2014). ...
... Women who use hormonal contraceptives when they meet their long-term partners and later discontinue those contraceptives report lower sexual satisfaction (Roberts et al. 2014) and relationship satisfaction (Russell et al. 2014) compared to those women who meet their long-term partners while using hormonal contraceptives and continue using those contraceptives (but also see Jern et al. 2018). Interestingly, the association between women's congruency in hormonal contraceptive use and relationship satisfaction depends on their long-term partners' facial attractivenesswomen who meet their longterm partners while using hormonal contraceptives and later discontinue those contraceptives report increased relationship satisfaction if their partners have more attractive faces, but they report decreased relationship satisfaction if their partners have less attractive faces (Russell et al. 2014). This finding supports the notion that hormonal contraceptives influence women's long-term relationships because they potentially influence who women select as long-term partners. ...
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By suppressing ovulation, hormonal contraceptives alter men's and women's mate choices that depend on women's menstrual cycles.
... Oral contraceptives users were more likely to initiate a separation if it eventually occurred. Other research has found that women who met their husbands while they were taking contraceptives became less satisfied with their partner when they discontinued oral contraceptive use if their husband had a relatively less attractive face, but more satisfied with their partner if they had a relatively attractive face (Russell et al. 2014;see Roberts et al. 2014 for review of congruency hypothesis, although see Jern et al. 2018). Intrasexual competition may also be influenced by HC use, such that partnered women using HCs are less intrasexually competitive than their single counterparts and women who are naturally cycling (Cobey et al. 2013b). ...
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Objectives Progestins (i.e., synthetic progesterone) used in hormonal contraceptives (HCs) have been developed to mimic endogenous progesterone to inhibit ovulation and prevent pregnancy. Although the physiological side effects of different progestin formulations and administrative routes (e.g., oral pill, injection, skin patch) are well understood, the potential affective and behavioral side effects of various progestins are relatively under-studied. Progestins vary in terms of their dosage, bioavailability, metabolism, and affinity for progesterone and other steroid hormone receptors. Yet, research investigating the effects of these compounds on women’s affect, sex drive, and mate preferences has not systematically accounted for these differences when considering their psychobehavioral side effects.Methods Here, the biological differences between progesterone and progestins, as well as the differences between progestin types, are considered.ResultsResearch looking at the effects of progesterone and progestins on women’s affect, sex drive, and mating psychology is reviewed, with emphasis on work that has explored differences between progestin types. In this review, we argue that accounting for these unique aspects of progestins is necessary for a comprehensive understanding of the influence of HCs on women.ConclusionA better understanding of these differences may clarify previous research and inform future studies.
... Participants were asked to first complete a set of questionnaires and then have photos taken of their face since facial attractiveness has been used to measure overall physical attractiveness (Russell, McNulty, Baker, & Meltzer, 2014). Because observers' judgments can be influenced by dynamic facial expressions (e.g., smiling ;Naumann, Vazire, Rentfrow, & Gosling, 2009), participants were asked to relax, keep their mouth closed, and make a neutral expression. ...
Article
Objective: In the mating market, individuals differ in their aspirations to pursue opposite-sex mates who have a relatively higher (vs. similar) level of physical attractiveness. Few studies have explored how motivational concerns outside the mating domain can account for these individual differences in romantic aspiration. Based on regulatory focus theory, this research tested how broad concerns for promotion and prevention influence the aspiration and dating outcome. Method: Four studies tested whether promotion concerns increase romantic aspiration and the chance to mate with a more physically attractive partner. The first three studies tested how promotion concerns, either measured (Studies 1a and 2) or manipulated (Study 1b), can influence romantic aspiration. Study 3 further tested how one's chronic promotion concerns are related to the physical attractiveness of the current partner (as rated by observers). Results: The first three studies supported the prediction that promotion concerns increase aspiration to pursue more physically attractive mates. Study 3 also found that, controlling for their own physical attractiveness, individuals with stronger promotion concerns tend to mate with physically attractive partners. Conclusions: The results highlight the significant roles of broad motivational concerns in determining both aspiration and chance to date a more physically attractive partner.
... 123 Two longitudinal studies of marriage revealed that discontinuing CHC use was associated with changes in wives' marital satisfaction depending on their husbands' facial attractiveness; in fact, the discontinuation was associated with lower satisfaction only among wives with relatively less attractive husbands. 124 However, one must acknowledge factors other than male-to-female attractiveness that might influence the change in sexual satisfaction due to HC discontinuation (eg, fear of pregnancy, irregular menses). ...
Article
Introduction: Hormonal contraception is available worldwide in many different forms. Fear of side effects and health concerns are among the main reasons for not using contraceptives or discontinuing their use. Although the safety and efficacy of contraceptives have been extensively examined, little is known about their impact on female sexual function, and the evidence on the topic is controversial. Aim: To review the available evidence about the effects of hormonal contraceptives on female sexuality in order to provide a position statement and clinical practice recommendations on behalf of the European Society of Sexual Medicine. Methods: A comprehensive review of the literature was performed. Main outcome measure: Several aspects of female sexuality have been investigated, including desire, orgasmic function, lubrication and vulvovaginal symptoms, pelvic floor and urological symptoms, partner preference, and relationship and sexual satisfaction. For each topic, data were analyzed according to the different types of hormonal contraceptives (combined estrogen-progestin methods, progestin-only methods, and oral or non-oral options). Results: Recommendations according to the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine 2011 Levels of Evidence criteria and specific statements on this topic, summarizing the European Society of Sexual Medicine position, were developed. Clinical implications: There is not enough evidence to draw a clear algorithm for the management of hormonal contraception-induced sexual dysfunction, and further studies are warranted before conclusions can be drawn. A careful baseline psychological, sexual, and relational assessment is necessary for the health care provider to evaluate eventual effects of hormonal contraceptives at follow-up. Strengths & limitations: All studies have been evaluated by a panel of experts who have provided recommendations for clinical practice. Conclusion: The effects of hormonal contraceptives on sexual function have not been well studied and remain controversial. Available evidence indicates that a minority of women experience a change in sexual functioning with regard to general sexual response, desire, lubrication, orgasm, and relationship satisfaction. The pathophysiological mechanisms leading to reported sexual difficulties such as reduced desire and vulvovaginal atrophy remain unclear. Insufficient evidence is available on the correlation between hormonal contraceptives and pelvic floor function and urological symptoms. Both S, Lew-Starowicz M, Luria M, et al. Hormonal Contraception and Female Sexuality: Position Statements from the European Society of Sexual Medicine (ESSM). J Sex Med 2019;16:1681-1695.
Article
According to the congruency hypothesis, relationship satisfaction is predicted by the congruency (or non-congruency) between current use of oral contraceptives (OC) and their use during relationship formation. This is based on reports that OC may alter women’s mate preferences, so that attraction to their partner may have changed in non-congruent women. Indeed, some studies find that women in a non-congruent state were less sexually satisfied with their partner, although they were more satisfied in non-sexual aspects of the relationship. However, some other studies have produced null results, calling the hypothesis into question. In this study, we tested the congruency hypothesis in two samples of pregnant women and their partners, and in two samples of couples attending a fertility clinic. In all four samples, couples completed questionnaires on relationship and sexual satisfaction and the women also reported their previous and current contraceptive use. In one sample of pregnant women, we found that women who used OC during relationship formation were more sexually satisfied with their partner compared to women who did not use OC at that time; this pattern has previously been interpreted as supporting the congruency hypothesis in view of certain similarities in hormonal profile between OC use and pregnancy. We did not find any significant effect of OC use during relationship formation on sexual and relationship satisfaction in the other sample of pregnant women, either sample attending the fertility clinic, or in the male partners of any of our samples. Our results thus provide mixed support for the congruency hypothesis. Finally, we discuss recommendations for future studies such as use of within-subject designs and more structured assessment of sexual satisfaction.
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The dual mating strategy hypothesis proposes that women's preferences for uncommitted sexual relationships with men displaying putative fitness cues increase during the high-fertility phase of the menstrual cycle. Results consistent with this hypothesis are widely cited as evidence that sexual selection has shaped human mating psychology. However, the methods used in most of these studies have recently been extensively criticized. Here we discuss (i) new empirical studies that address these methodological problems and largely report null results and (ii) an alternative model of hormonal regulation of women's mating psychology that can better accommodate these new data.
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Direct and overt visible support promotes recipients’ relationship satisfaction but can also exacerbate negative mood. In contrast, subtle and indirect invisible support can bypass costs to mood, but it is unclear whether it undermines or boosts relationship satisfaction. Because invisible support is not perceived by recipients, its relational impact may be delayed across time. Thus, the current research used three dyadic daily diary studies (total N = 322 married couples) to explore, for the first time, both the immediate (same day) and lagged (next day) effects of visible and invisible support on recipients’ mood and relationship satisfaction. Consistent with prior research, visible support was associated with recipients reporting greater relationship satisfaction and greater anxiety the same day. In contrast, but also consistent with prior research, invisible support had no significant same-day effects, and thus avoided mood costs. Nevertheless, invisible support was associated with recipients reporting greater relationship satisfaction the next day. Study 3 provided evidence that such effects emerged because invisible support was also associated with greater satisfaction with partners’ helpful behaviors (e.g., household chores) and relationship interactions (e.g., time spent together) on the next day. These studies demonstrate the importance of assessing different temporal effects associated with support acts (which may otherwise go undetected) and provide the first evidence that invisible support enhances relationship satisfaction but does so across days.
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Hormonal fluctuation across the menstrual cycle explains temporal variation in women's judgment of the attractiveness of members of the opposite sex. Use of hormonal contraceptives could therefore influence both initial partner choice and, if contraceptive use subsequently changes, intrapair dynamics. Associations between hormonal contraceptive use and relationship satisfaction may thus be best understood by considering whether current use is congruent with use when relationships formed, rather than by considering current use alone. In the study reported here, we tested this congruency hypothesis in a survey of 365 couples. Controlling for potential confounds (including relationship duration, age, parenthood, and income), we found that congruency in current and previous hormonal contraceptive use, but not current use alone, predicted women's sexual satisfaction with their partners. Congruency was not associated with women's nonsexual satisfaction or with the satisfaction of their male partners. Our results provide empirical support for the congruency hypothesis and suggest that women's sexual satisfaction is influenced by changes in partner preference associated with change in hormonal contraceptive use.
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Sexual selection theory and parental investment theory suggest that partner physical attractiveness should more strongly affect men's relationship outcomes than women's relationship outcomes. Nevertheless, the contextual nature of this prediction makes serious methodological demands on studies designed to evaluate it. Given these theories suggest that men value observable aspects of partner attractiveness more than women do only in the context of long-term and reproductively viable relationships, they require that studies testing this sex difference involve (a) participants in long-term relationships, (b) women of child-bearing age, and (c) measures of physical attractiveness that assess observable aspects of appearance. In our original article (Meltzer, McNulty, Jackson, & Karney, 2014), we applied 7 methodological standards that allowed us to meet these 3 criteria and demonstrated that partner physical attractiveness is more strongly associated with men's long-term relationship satisfaction than women's long-term relationship satisfaction. Eastwick, Neff, Finkel, Luchies, and Hunt (2014), in contrast, described an unfocused meta-analysis, a refocused meta-analysis, and new data that all failed to meet these criteria and, not surprisingly, failed to demonstrate such a sex difference. We continue to believe that men value physical attractiveness more than women do, that such preferences have implications for their evaluations of long-term relationships, and that studies properly calibrated to detect such differences will do so. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
The major purpose of this investigation was to examine the relative importance of three domains of expressive interaction-companionship, sexual expression, and supportive communication-in predicting relationship satisfaction and commitment. This issue was examined with data collected from both partners of 94 married or committed (engaged or cohabiting) couples. Results indicated that all three domains of expressive interaction were significantly related to relationship satisfaction and commitment and that supportive communication had the strongest association with satisfaction and commitment.
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Data from six U.S. national surveys are used to compare the estimated contributions to global happiness of marital happiness and satisfaction with each of seven aspects of life, ranging from work to friendships. Separate estimates are provided for white men, white women, black men, and black women. Except for black men, the estimated contribution of marital happiness is far greater than the estimated contribution of any of the kinds of satisfaction, including satisfaction with work. These findings, considered in conjunction with other evidence, indicate that Americans depend very heavily on their marriages for their psychological well-being. Some implications of the findings are discussed.
Article
This article examines a fundamental problem in research using self-report measures of marriage: attempts have been made to measure and explain variance in marital quality without adequate understanding and specification of the construct of "marital quality." A specific consequence of this shortcoming is that marital quality is not readily distinguished from other relevant constructs (e.g., communication). This, in turn, results in measures that have a great deal of overlap in item content, thus preventing clear interpretation of the empirical relationship between the constructs. The inability to establish unambiguous empirical relationships among relevant constructs severely limits theory development in this research domain. One means of avoiding these problems is to treat marital quality solely as the global evaluation of one's marriage. The implications of this strategy are examined in regard to three issues that have received insufficient attention in marital research: (a) the association between empirical and conceptual dependence; (b) the interpretation of responses to self-report inventories; and (c) the consideration of the purpose for which marital quality is measured. The advantages of adopting this approach, and the conditions under which it is most appropriate to do so, are also outlined.
Article
Objective: This report presents national estimates of the proportion of sexually experienced women aged 15-44 who have ever used various methods of contraception in the United States. Trends are shown since 1982, and results are shown by Hispanic origin and race, education, and religious affiliation. The number of methods ever used is also shown, along with reasons for stopping use of selected methods. Methods: Data for 2006-2010 were collected through in-person interviews with 22,682 women and men aged 15-44 in the household population of the United States. Interviews were conducted by female interviewers in the homes of sampled persons. This report is based primarily on the sample of 12,279 women interviewed in 2006-2010 from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Data from earlier NSFGs are presented to show trends in method choice since 1982. Results: Virtually all women of reproductive age in 2006-2010 who had ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lifetime (99%, or 53 million women aged 15-44), including 88% who have used a highly effective, reversible method such as birth control pills, an injectable method, a contraceptive patch, or an intrauterine device. In 2006-2010, the most common methods that women or their partners had ever used were: the male condom (93%), the pill (82%), withdrawal (60%), and the injectable, Depo-Provera (23%). Method use varied by race and Hispanic origin, nativity among Hispanics, education, and religious affiliation, with significant proportions of women in all categories having used one or more of the most effective methods. The median number of methods ever used by women was about three, but nearly 30% have used five or more methods. Side effects were the most common reason for discontinuing use of the pill, Depo-Provera, and the patch among women who had ever discontinued using these methods due to dissatisfaction.
Article
This paper critically examines the operationalization of marital quality indices used as dependent variables. First, it looks at the functioning and construction of marital quality variables. In particular, Spanier's Dyadic Adjustment Scale is used to illustrate the arguments. Second, it presents both semantic and empirical criteria to judge the development of a marital quality index. Finally, it presents a Quality Marriage Index (QMI) based on the introduced criteria. This index was constructed using data from 430 people across four states. Several advantages of the QMI over more traditional measures are shown in terms of how covariates relate to the index.