ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

A relatively large number of people in Western societies are single; that is, they are not involved in any romantic relationship. In this study, we have attempted to investigate the reasons for singlehood by asking singles themselves. A final sample of 648 American singles (307 of them women) rated 92 possible reasons for singlehood. These reasons were classified into 18 broad factors and four general domains. Among the most important reasons were poor flirting skills, freedom, fear of getting hurt, having different priorities, and being too picky. Significant sex and age effects were found across different factors and domains. More specifically, men were more likely than women to indicate that they were single in order to be free to flirt around, and because they were not into family making; while women were more likely to indicate that they were single in order to avoid getting hurt, and because they have considered themselves not to be desirable as mates. Younger people were more likely to indicate that they were single because they had poor flirting skills, because they did not see themselves as desirable mates, and because they did not like commitment; whereas older people were more likely to indicate that they were single in order to be free to do what they have wanted. Findings were examined and discussed using evolutionary theories relating to mate selection and evolutionary mismatch.
Content may be subject to copyright.
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 1
ORIGINAL RESEARCH
published: 06 May 2020
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00746
Edited by:
T. Joel Wade,
Bucknell University, United States
Reviewed by:
David R. Widman,
Juniata College, United States
Anastasia Makhanova,
University of Arkansas, United States
*Correspondence:
Menelaos Apostolou
m.apostolou@gmail.com
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Evolutionary Psychology,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 30 April 2019
Accepted: 26 March 2020
Published: 06 May 2020
Citation:
Apostolou M, O J and Esposito G
(2020) Singles’ Reasons for Being
Single: Empirical Evidence From an
Evolutionary Perspective.
Front. Psychol. 11:746.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00746
Singles’ Reasons for Being Single:
Empirical Evidence From an
Evolutionary Perspective
Menelaos Apostolou1*, Jiaqing O2and Gianluca Esposito3,4,5
1Department of Social Sciences, University of Nicosia, Nicosia, Cyprus, 2Department of Psychology, Aberystwyth University,
Aberystwyth, United Kingdom, 3Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Trento, Italy,
4Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore, 4Lee
Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore
A relatively large number of people in Western societies are single; that is, they are not
involved in any romantic relationship. In this study, we have attempted to investigate the
reasons for singlehood by asking singles themselves. A final sample of 648 American
singles (307 of them women) rated 92 possible reasons for singlehood. These reasons
were classified into 18 broad factors and four general domains. Among the most
important reasons were poor flirting skills, freedom, fear of getting hurt, having different
priorities, and being too picky. Significant sex and age effects were found across different
factors and domains. More specifically, men were more likely than women to indicate
that they were single in order to be free to flirt around, and because they were not into
family making; while women were more likely to indicate that they were single in order
to avoid getting hurt, and because they have considered themselves not to be desirable
as mates. Younger people were more likely to indicate that they were single because
they had poor flirting skills, because they did not see themselves as desirable mates,
and because they did not like commitment; whereas older people were more likely to
indicate that they were single in order to be free to do what they have wanted. Findings
were examined and discussed using evolutionary theories relating to mate selection and
evolutionary mismatch.
Keywords: singlehood, reasons for being single, evolutionary mismatch, mating, mate choice
INTRODUCTION
In contemporary post-industrial societies, a substantial proportion of adult individuals are single,
i.e., they are not involved in any romantic relationship. For instance, a 2005 study found that 32.7%
of the adult population in the United States were not in an intimate relationship (Pew Research
Center, 2006). This study was replicated in 2013, with the number of people who were not involved
in a romantic relationship reported to constitute 35% of the population (Pew Research Center,
2013). Similarly, another study involving a nationally representative sample of American adults
has also found that about one in four participants did not have an intimate partner (Rosenfeld
et al., 2015). Indeed, singlehood appears to be on the rise. For instance, while 28% of the adult
population in the United States were single in 1970, this number has risen to more than 40% in
2002 (DePaulo and Morris, 2005).
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 1May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 2
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
Recent theoretical and empirical work has attempted to
identify the reasons that have led people to be single (Apostolou,
2015, 2017, 2019;Pepping and MacDonald, 2018), with one
study in particular (Apostolou, 2017) offering a list comprising
of 76 such reasons. However, none of the subsequent research
following that work has investigated the validity of these reasons
by focusing exclusively on those who are actually single – which
would conceivably provide some much-needed findings straight
from the horses’ mouths. Hence, the current study has sought
to expand on previous work on this topic by asking singles
themselves about their reasons for being single.
As evidenced by the plethora of reasons that have shown
to underlie singlehood, which is a complex phenomenon that
does not have one causal explanation, the goal of the present
manuscript is to identify the factor structure of singles’ reasons
for being single, and to explore whether these reasons are
associated with singles’ sex and age. Although the nature of
this research is largely exploratory, theories from evolutionary
psychology can shed light on some patterns that may emerge.
In the remainder of this introduction, we will highlight theories
and clarify some predictions that may flow from each. In
particular, we will contend that, at certain stages in their lives,
it may be beneficial for people to be single. We will also argue
that the transition from a context in which mate choice was
regulated to a context in which it is freely exercised is too
brief from an evolutionary perspective for selection forces to
adequately adjust psychological adaptations – hence, this might
have played a part in individuals facing more difficulties in
attracting partners in the present day. We will also explore the
evolutionary reasoning behind the notion that people are likely
to face issues, such as health problems, which could prevent
them from finding a partner. These theories are believed to
be complementary, as they could potentially explain different
aspects of the singlehood phenomenon.
THE NATURE OF SINGLEHOOD
Humans are sexually reproducing species, which means that,
in order to reproduce, individuals need to gain access to the
reproductive capacity of the opposite sex. Moreover, children
require considerable parental investment until they have reached
sexual maturity and are able to reproduce on their own (Clutton-
Brock, 1991). In addition, having a partner who provides
material and non-material support can greatly increase the
survival chances of one’s progeny. These factors have favored the
evolution of psychological mechanisms such as romantic love
and the cognitive need for intimacy that motivate people to seek
partners and to establish long-term relationships so that children
can be successfully conceived and nurtured (Buss, 1987, 2017;
Symons, 1979). These mechanisms are, in general, evolutionarily
effective, as the great majority of people eventually marry and
have children (Miller, 2011). Nonetheless, this argument does not
explain why so many people remain single for prolonged periods
of their lives in the present day. Three main factors have been
proposed to account for this phenomenon (Apostolou, 2015,
2017), and will be examined next.
The Fitness Benefits of Being Single
While it might seem like a paradox on the face of it, not
having an intimate partner under certain circumstances could
likely increase one’s reproductive success. More specifically, when
people search for long-term mates, they are likely to look for traits
such as having a good job, high social status and good education
that could indicate a high capacity to provide resources, which are
required for raising a family (Buss and Schmitt, 1993, 2019;Buss,
2017). Yet, many of these qualities are not innate; for instance,
people are not born with a good job. As such, it might pay off for
some individuals to allocate their limited resources in developing
these qualities prior to their search for long term partners. Such
a strategy may not be appropriate for people who are looking
for casual partners, and are thus less concerned about their mate
value; but it may work well for people who are looking for a long-
term partner, and are thus, more concerned about the latter’s mate
value. For instance, some people may choose to focus their energy
in advancing their careers prior to looking for a marriage partner.
Once they have done so, they might then have better chances
of mating success, and could therefore divert their resources in
attracting suitable long-term partners. Simply put, not having a
good job or not having a job at all is a major constraint in the
long-term mating market, especially for men; by the same token,
having a good job is a major advantage. Accordingly, in terms
of success in the long-term mating market, it would be more
beneficial for men who have just graduated from college to focus
their attention on securing a good job than in securing a long-
term mate. Based on this perspective, we would expect singles to
indicate reasons such as lacking time for a relationship and career
advancement for their current singlehood status.
Furthermore, prospective mates vary considerably in their
mate value – for instance, some are younger, better looking,
healthier, more intelligent, and have a higher capacity to generate
resources than others. Some theories suggest that, it is optimal
for mate-seekers to find mates with mate value similar to their
own. If they strive for mates of a greater to their own mate value,
they might not be able to keep them for long; while if they strive
for mates of a lower mate value, they would forgo the benefits
of a higher value mate who they could otherwise have attracted
(Buss, 2017). Indeed, people tended to prefer as mates individuals
who share similar characteristics with them (Hitsch et al., 2010;
Watson et al., 2014), which could in turn lead to assortative
mating (Watson et al., 2004;Luo, 2017). Nevertheless, such an
undertaking is time-consuming, and so it might be beneficial for
individuals not to settle down with the first willing mate coming
their way, but to stay single until they have found an available
mate with a mate value more similar to their own. From this
perspective, we would expect singles to indicate being picky and
waiting for the right one as reasons for being currently single.
It can also be profitable for mate-seekers to refine their
mating skills and acquire some mating experience by engaging
in different casual relationships prior to committing to one.
By having acquired more experience and by having improved
their flirting skills (for more on flirting skills see Apostolou
and Christoforou, 2020), people may stand a better chance of
attracting a long-term mate of a higher mate value. According to
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 2May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 3
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
this perspective, we would expect singles to indicate the ability to
flirt around with many different people, for instance, as a reason
for their singlehood status.
In a similar vein, following the termination of a long-
term intimate relationship, it might be beneficial for people to
spend some time on their own to reflect on the reasons as
to why the relationship has ended, and to improve themselves
before reentering the long-term mating market. In addition, as
discussed above, children in our species require considerable
parental investment in order to stand a good chance in reaching
sexual maturity. Thus, it would be useful for men to establish
long-term intimate relationships in which children could be
adequately supported by their parents. Nevertheless, because men
are not constrained by pregnancy, their reproductive success is
proportional to the number of women they can gain access to
Buss and Schmitt (1993). That is, after sexual intercourse with
one partner that has resulted in conception, men still have the
potential to inseminate a different one, within a few hours or
even minutes. Accordingly, it would be evolutionarily beneficial
at times for men to adopt a short-term mating strategy and to
seek casual sex with different women instead of committing to a
long-term intimate relationship (Buss and Schmitt, 1993, 2019).
As such, it is contended that, in certain stages in their lives, it
might be beneficial for people to stay single at least for a while.
The Mismatch Problem
Adaptations are mechanisms which have evolved to interact
with specific aspects of the environment in order to produce
fitness-increasing outcomes (Irons, 1998;Tooby and Cosmides,
2005). When these aspects change, adaptations may not be
equally effective or may become totally ineffective in producing
fitness-increasing outcomes. Nonetheless, evolutionary selection
forces are exercised on genes, which code for these adaptations,
removing genetic variants or alleles, which are not optimal for
the novel conditions, and keeping the ones which are. In this
regard, these adaptations would eventually adjust to the new
environment, so that they interact with it in a fitness-increasing
fashion. Yet, this process takes time, and in the interim, there
would be several individuals who would suffer fitness penalties
because they have adaptations, which are not properly adjusted
to the kind of environment which they currently occupy. This is
known as the mismatch problem (Crawford, 1998;Maner and
Kenrick, 2010;Li et al., 2017), and it has been hypothesized
to be one of the reasons behind the observed high prevalence
rates of singlehood in post-industrial societies (Apostolou,
2015). In particular, psychological adaptations that are geared
toward reliably solving mating and reproductive problems in the
ancestral context, might not have been equally effective in doing
so in the modern environment, the reason being that the nature
of the mating market between the two different time periods is
very dissimilar.
More specifically, anthropological and historical evidence has
indicated that the selection of a partner was generally regulated in
the ancestral context. In addition, evidence from pre-industrial
societies, which greatly resembled the way of life of ancestral
ones, has shown that the typical avenue for long-term mating
was through arranged marriage, where parents chose spouses
for their children (Apostolou, 2007, 2010;Walker et al., 2011).
Free mate choice had never been the norm in any of the known
historical societies, as marriages were typically arranged (Coontz,
2006;Apostolou, 2012). Moreover, men have usually formed
male coalitions in order to fight other men and to monopolize
their resources and women by force (Tooby and Cosmides, 1988;
Ghiglieri, 1999). Anthropological evidence has also indicated
that such fights are commonly found in contemporary hunter-
gatherer, as well as in agropastoral societies (Chagnon, 1992;
Ember and Ember, 1992), with such incidents noted to be more
frequent in the latter (Ember and Ember, 1997;Nolan, 2003). This
evidence, along with historical and archeological data, suggests
that such fights were similarly common in ancestral societies
(Keegan, 2004;Bowles, 2009;Puts, 2016), but are considerably
less common in modern post-industrial ones (Pinker, 2011). We
need to note, however, that forming male coalitions is probably
not men’s primary strategy, as mating takes place predominantly
in times of peace across societies (Apostolou, 2014).
In Western post-industrial societies, individuals are often free
to make their own choice of a mate, and mates are typically
not chosen by parents or forced upon individuals by male
coalitions. Nevertheless, the transition from a context in which
mate choice was largely regulated to a context in which it is
freely exercised, has taken place very recently in evolutionary
terms, for psychological mechanisms to have enough time to
adapt to the new conditions. Thus, people’s adaptations involved
in mating have primarily evolved in a context in which mate
choice was regulated and male-male competition was strong, and
may not work equally well in a context in which mate choice is
freely exercised. Therefore, several people may face difficulties
in attracting and retaining mates and may consequently end
up being single. In this respect, we expect that several people
in the present day are single because they have a poor flirting
capacity, as this capacity was not necessary in the ancestral
context, in which mate choice was regulated. A note of caution
though: proposing that individuals might be single as a result of
evolutionary mismatch is not the same as suggesting that people
are aware of the actual underlying reasons as to why they are
single. The reasons people might adopt, and the items proposed
in this study, are mainly proximate explanations of an assortment
of underlying ultimate causes (e.g., those relating to evolutionary
mismatch and sexual selection explanations).
Constraints
People are likely to face several constraints that prevent them
from participating effectively in the mating market. People
could develop a serious illness, which might then render them
undesirable as mates, and deprive them of the necessary resources
required for attracting and keeping mates. Similarly, some
individuals may have young children from previous relationships,
and would need to allocate considerable resources such as time
and money in raising these children, leaving limited resources
available for mating effort. In such scenarios, people may lack
the necessary resources for participating effectively in the mating
market and may have few chances of success if they attempt to do
so. Accordingly, they are either forced out of the mating market,
or consciously choose to stay away from it, until their constraints
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 3May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 4
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
have been addressed (Apostolou, 2017). Hence, we expect that
some of the reasons for singlehood will cluster in factors and
domains that reflect constraints.
Sex and Age Effects
The reasons for singlehood are unlikely to affect everyone
in a similar manner, with sex and age likely to be important
predictors. As discussed above, men can benefit more than
women from having casual sex with different partners.
Consequently, men would be more likely than women to
stay single in order to be free to engage in casual relationships.
Women, in contrast, allocate more resources to their offspring,
and are thus, the scarce reproductive resource which men seek
access to (Trivers, 1972). The higher level of parental investment
in the form of pregnancy influences women’s choices as they
increase their fitness not by having sex with different mates,
but by consenting to sex with men who are willing to settle
down with them and to provide for them and their children
(Buss, 2017). Accordingly, women have evolved to be choosier
than men (Buss and Schmitt, 1993, 2019), and their higher
level of choosiness may prevent them from being involved in a
relationship. Thus, we expect that men will be more likely than
women to prefer singlehood in order to be able to have casual sex
with different partners. On the other hand, women, as opposed
to men, are expected to be more likely to be single because they
have not found the right partner.
Allocating resources in order to increase social status and
resource generating capacity, which are required for successful
participation in the mating market, is an evolutionary problem
that typically younger individuals are faced with. As such,
younger people are more likely than older ones to be single in
order to advance their studies or careers. In addition, younger
people are more likely than older ones to stay single in order
to refine their flirting skills. Furthermore, older people are
more susceptible than younger ones to illnesses and might
have offspring that they need to care for. Accordingly, older
individuals are more likely than younger ones to face constraints
that prevent them from participating effectively in the mating
market. In sum, the reasons for singlehood are expected to vary
between sexes and between age groups.
Why Singles Are Single?
To summarize, three main reasons have been proposed to
explain why individuals who are single are single: (1) because
under certain circumstances being single can increase fitness;
(2) because of the evolutionary mismatch between ancestral and
modern conditions; and (3) because of different constraints,
some people may be less effective in participating in the
mating market. Consistent with these arguments, three domains,
namely “Difficulties with relationships,” “Freedom of choice,
and “Constraints,” have been identified by previous research
(Apostolou, 2017), and they are in line with the three reasons
that were discussed above. Apostolou (2017) has also found that
men were more likely than women to indicate that they were
single in order to be free to flirt around and to do what they
have wanted, and because they did not like commitment. On
the other hand, women were more likely than men to indicate
that they were single because they have had bad experiences
from previous relationships, and that they were afraid of change
(Apostolou, 2017).
Furthermore, it was also reported that older people were more
likely to indicate that they were single because they have had
bad experiences from previous relationships, and that they have
had issues such as poor health that has kept them back; whereas
younger people were more likely to indicate that they were single
in order to flirt around, and because they had different life-
priorities (Apostolou, 2017). However, one major issue with that
study, which the current study is designed to address, is that it
asked participants for reasons, which they believed could drive
them to be single and not the actual reasons why single people
were single – in fact, most of the participants in the sample were
either married or were in a relationship – an issue that raises
important questions of validity. Although Apostolou (2017) has
attempted to produce a list of such reasons using qualitative
research methods, subsequent qualitative research has indicated
that the list was not comprehensive enough and that it did not
include several important reasons for singlehood (Apostolou,
2019). Likewise, Apostolou’s (2017) study was based on the Greek
cultural context, and thus, additional research is required to
examine reasons for singlehood in different cultural contexts.
Although one other qualitative study has also examined 13,429
responses from a Reddit thread asking members for the reasons
men were single (Apostolou, 2019), the responses were mainly
analyzed conceptually because the qualitative nature of the data
did not allow any quantitative statistical analysis to be performed.
In addition, Apostolou’s (2019) study was limited to men, so its
findings cannot be readily generalized to women.
To our knowledge, these are the only two empirical papers
to date, which have attempted to examine the reasons for
singlehood, and findings from both have been constrained by
important limitations. The current study attempts to contribute
to the literature by addressing these limitations and expanding on
these research efforts. Accordingly, the current study, through the
adoption of findings from previous research, aims to construct a
more comprehensive list that would enable us to perform a more
accurate taxonomy of the reasons for singlehood and to assess
their relative importance.
The current study also aims to address the issue of validity by
being the first empirical study to assess an updated list of reasons
for singlehood that was based on Apostolou’s (2017) study, using
a sample of participants who were actually single. People who do
not have a partner could be broadly divided into those who are
between relationships, those who are single because they wish to
be so, and those who are single because they face difficulties in
attracting a partner (Apostolou et al., 2019). Our study aimed to
examine the reasons which led to singlehood across singles and
not in specific categories of singlehood. Accordingly, we did not
differentiate between singles, and we included in our sample all
participants who did not have a partner.
Taken together, we asked single people to rate a comprehensive
list of reasons as to why they were single. Our theoretical
framework makes specific predictions about the different reasons
for singlehood. Specifically, we predict that these reasons would
cluster in several domains, with one reflecting the fitness benefits
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 4May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 5
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
for being single, another reflecting the mismatch problem,
and another which highlights the kinds of constraints people
have been under. Nonetheless, given the complexity of the
phenomenon and the plethora of proposed reasons, our study is
largely explorative and so factors and domains not predicted by
our theoretical framework are likely to be relevant as well. We
will examine the relevance of these reasons with people who are
single, and we will conduct a principal components analysis in
order to assess the importance of the identified factors in this
sample. Subsequently, we will also examine the ways in which
these factors are influenced by sex and age.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Participants
Following the ethical approval by a psychology department
of a United Kingdom university (ethics approval code: 9322),
participants were recruited using a hired agent via the online
Amazon Mechanical Turk platform (MTurk)1. Informed consent
was obtained by all participants. Participants were provided
with a nominal financial payment for their involvement. The
criteria for participating in the study were as follows: The MTurk
workers’ contributions had to be approved minimally for 99%
of the time on the online marketplace, and they had to have
completed more than 1,000 tasks on the crowdsourcing website
beforehand; they also had to be single and have not been involved
in any form of romantic relationship at that time of the study;
to have been based in the United States and to have been at
least 18 years old.
In total, 659 individuals took part in the study initially. Eight
of them did not complete the study and so were excluded from
the final analyses. In addition, one participant indicated India
as his country of residence, while another two reported their
marital status as “Other” and “In a relationship” respectively, and
hence, they were likewise not used for the final analyses. One
male participant did not report his age properly and so was not
included in the calculations for the mean age for males or in the
factor analyses assessing age differences. The final sample of 647
participants (307 females, 340 males), excluding this participant,
has a mean age of 42.2 for women (SD = 13.8, Range = 64) and
a mean age of 37.2 for the remaining group of men (SD = 11.4,
Range = 58). Of the whole sample of 648 participants (including
the participant with the insufficient age information), 572 of them
reported being single, while 76 of them “divorced” (which we
assume for the purposes of this study to represent a type of
singlehood as well).
Materials
The study was conducted online and consisted of two sections.
Participants were asked to rate several reasons for their
singlehood in the initial section, using a five-point Likert scale
(1 – Strongly disagree, 5 – Strongly agree). The order of
presentation was randomized across participants. In the second
part, demographic characteristics were collected (sex, age, and
1www.mturk.com
marital status). In order to measure the reasons why people
were single, we employed an extended version of the instrument
developed by previous research (Apostolou, 2017). The original
instrument consisted of 76 reasons, which were identified by
using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research
methods. We have also added 16 additional reasons, which have
been identified by a recent study (Apostolou, 2019), giving us a
total of 92 reasons, listed in Table 1.
RESULTS
Factor Structure
We began our analysis by attempting to classify the 92
reasons into broader factors. For this purpose, we employed
a principal components analysis using the direct oblimin as
the rotation method. The KMO statistic indicated that our
sample was very good for a principal components analysis to
be performed (KMO = 0.94). Based on the Kaiser criterion
(Eigenvalue >1), 18 factors have been extracted, and are
presented in Table 1. The internal consistency of these factors
(alpha) ranged from 0.61 to 0.95 with a mean of 78.1.
In order to classify these factors into broader domains, a
second-order principal components analysis was performed.
In particular, 18 new variables were created, which reflected
the mean of each extracted factor. Subsequently, a principal
components analysis was performed on these variables using
direct oblimin as the rotation method. Using the Kaiser criterion
(eigenvalue >1), four domains have been extracted and are
presented in Table 1.
Occurrence
Factors
In order to estimate which factor was more likely to lead people
to be single, we estimated the means of each one and placed
them in a hierarchical order, starting with the one with the
highest mean. Note that, no item in each factor was reverse
scored, and higher means indicated a higher agreement that the
factor in question was responsible for leading participants to be
single. The analysis demonstrated that factors such as “I am too
picky,” “I want to be free to do whatever I want,” and “I am
not good at flirting,” were the most common reported reasons
(see Table 2). Using a similar procedure, the four domains were
also placed in a hierarchical order. As seen from Table 3, at the
top of the hierarchy was “Freedom,” followed by “Low capacity
for courtship.”
Furthermore, we calculated the number of participants who
gave scores of “4” or “5” in each of the reasons that composed
each of the 18 factors. In this way, we could calculate how many
participants were not single due to a particular factor – they gave
scores lower than “4” in all the reasons that constitute that specific
factor – and how many were single due to that factor – they gave
scores of “4” or more to at least one reason that constitutes that
specific factor. From Table 4 we can see that the most important
factor was the “I am not good at flirting,” followed by the “I
want to be free to do whatever I want,” and the “I fear I will
get hurt” factor.
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 5May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 6
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
TABLE 1 | Classification of the reasons for staying single in factors and domains.
Domains Factor loadings Factor loadings
Factors first second
Reasons order order
Low capacity for courtship
I am not good at flirting 0.895
I am shy 0.807
I am very introverted 0.795
I am terrible at picking up on signals 0.738
I am not good in flirting 0.708
I am socially awkward 0.708
I get high anxiety around women/men 0.581
I do not know how to start a
relationship
0.496
I do not feel confident 0.465
I fear rejection 0.428
I am a boring individual 0.418
I do not make any effort or make any
moves to attract a potential partner
0.336
I am not good in relationships 0.332
I have no avenues for meeting available
men/women
0.286
I am not a desirable mate 0.862
I am not good looking 0.700
Because of my weight 0.684
I have not achieved much in life and I
do not think I am attractive as a mate
0.547
I believe that nobody wants to be with
me
0.531
My financial situation prevents me from
having a relationship
0.486
I fear that my negative aspects will be
revealed
0.319
I experience sexual difficulties 0.627
I am not doing very well in the sexual
domain
0.744
Sometimes I face sexual difficulties 0.741
Commitment scares me 0.615
Commitment scares me 0.657
Love scares me 0.542
Change scares me 0.534
I do not like commitment 0.349
I have not accumulated enough
experiences to commit to a relationship
0.332
I have a health/disability problem 0.614
I have a disability 0.917
I have a serious health issue 0.898
I have psychological problems 0.376
I am going through a period of intense
stress and anxiety
0.303
Freedom
I want to be free to do whatever I want 0.897
I want to be able to go wherever I want
without needing to answer to anyone
0.831
(Continued)
TABLE 1 | Continued
Domains Factor loadings Factor loadings
Factors first second
Reasons order order
I do not want to lose my freedom 0.812
I want to not have to answer to anyone
about what I am doing
0.783
I do not tolerate restrictions 0.750
I want to be able to be myself 0.654
I want to be free to chase my own goals 0.640
I like to have my own space 0.598
I want to not feel under pressure 0.596
I am not willing to make compromises
and concessions
0.578
I want to have fewer obligations 0.526
I want to avoid the responsibilities that
a relationship entails
0.514
I want to have more choices 0.501
I want to be able to dress the way I
want without having to answer to
anyone
0.465
I want to avoid conflict 0.424
I prefer to be alone 0.424
I feel that I need some time alone 0.376
I got used to be alone 0.276
I am not the family type 0.842
I do not want to have a family 0.846
I am not the family type 0.822
I believe that being in a relationship will
not make me happier than I am right
now
0.377
I do not feel the emotional need to start
a relationship
0.368
I have different priorities 0.712
I want to focus on my career 0.778
I do not have enough time to devote to
a relationship
0.641
I worry that a relationship is going to be
damaging for my career
0.620
I do not feel ready to start a relationship 0.438
I have different priorities 0.390
I believe that I am too old to start a
relationship
0.280
I want to spend more time with my
friends
0.695
I want to have more time to spend with
my friends
0.565
I do not want to be alienated from my
friends
0.547
I am doing well right now 0.331
I want to be free to flirt around 0.646
I want to be able to have many casual
relationships
0.854
I want to have a freer sexual life 0.809
I want to be free to flirt with whoever I
want
0.760
(Continued)
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 6May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 7
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
TABLE 1 | Continued
Domains Factor loadings Factor loadings
Factors first second
Reasons order order
I want to be able to go out more often 0.493
I want to not get bored 0.351
Constraints from previous relationships
I want to devote my attention to my
children
0.666
I have children from a previous
relationship
0.887
I want to devote my attention to my
children
0.875
I have not gotten over my previous
relationship
0.656
I recently broke up 0.848
I have not gotten over my previous
relationship
0.771
I am grieving 0.533
I fear I will get hurt 0.557
I am afraid that I will get hurt again 0.740
I am afraid that my partner will cheat on
me
0.718
I am afraid that my partner will stop
loving me
0.692
I am afraid that the relationship will fail 0.681
I am afraid that what I will give to the
relationship will be wasted
0.663
I am afraid that I will be disappointed 0.635
I do not trust men/women 0.595
I do not trust easily 0.546
Bad experiences from previous
relationships
0.544
I would not have to worry about where
my partner is and what he/she is doing
0.464
I want to avoid jealousy 0.463
I am attracted to the wrong
men/women
0.348
I had many failures and I have given up
trying
0.334
I am too picky 0.500
I cannot find someone interesting 0.837
I cannot find the right one 0.758
I am very picky 0.670
Personal constraints
Addictions 0.616
Because of my addictions (alcohol,
drugs etc.)
0.770
Sexual orientation 0.591
Because of my sexual orientation 0.830
I need some time to decide about my
sexual orientation
0.828
My relationship may not be socially
acceptable
0.538
I cannot have children 0.450
I cannot have children 0.738
I move often 0.294
I move often so it is not easy to keep a
relationship
0.750
Domains
We performed a similar analysis for the four domains. We
calculated how many of the participants indicated that they were
single due to at least one factor composing the domain. For
instance, if a participant gave a score of “4” or “5” in any of
the reasons composing the “I am not good at flirting” factor, we
considered that they were single due to this factor, and due to
the domain “Low capacity for courtship,” which this factor was
a constitute of. As we can see from Table 4, the most prevalent
domain in our sample was “Low capacity for courtship” followed
by “Freedom.”
Comorbidity
In order to examine whether participants were single only due to
reasons loaded in one domain, or for reasons spread in different
domains, we estimated how many participants indicated that
they were single in more than one domain (i.e., they indicated
at least one factor that composed the domain as important, see
above). We found that 5.6% of all participants indicated all four
domains as important in explaining why they were single. To
put it differently, this finding suggested that all four domains
contributed to why 5.6% of the participants were single. We
repeated the analysis by dropping the “Personal constraints”
domain, which had the lower prevalence rate in the sample. We
found that 17.1% of the participants indicated all three domains
as important. Finally, we repeated the analysis only for the “Low
capacity for courtship” and the “Freedom” domains, which were
the most prevalent in our sample, and we found that 23.5%
indicated that both domains contributed to their singlehood.
Significant Sex and Age Effects
In order to identify significant effects of sex and age for
each factor, we performed a series of MANCOVAs, where the
dependent variables were the reasons composing each factor,
and the independent variables were sex and age. MANCOVA is
a statistical test that allows the examination of the effect of a
combination of independent variables that are continuous and
categorical on a dependent factor, which consists of more than
one variable (Field, 2018). Our analysis has identified 18 different
factors, each consisting of several reasons. Thus, the use of such
a test is appropriate for investigating the effect of sex and age on
each factor. In cases in which the factor was composed of only one
reason, ANCOVA was performed instead. Overall, 18 tests were
performed, and in order to avoid the possibility of alpha inflation,
we applied Bonferroni correction in which the alpha was set to
0.003 (0.05/18). Accordingly, any effect with a p-value of more
than 0.003 should not be considered significant.
The analyses indicated significant sex and age effects for
most factors (Table 2; see also Supplementary Table A in the
Supplementary Material). As indicated by the effect sizes, the
largest sex-difference was in relation to the “I am not a desirable
mate” factor. Women indicated that they were more likely than
men to be single because of their weight, while men indicated
that they were more likely than women to be single because they
had not achieved much in life, and thus, they were not desirable
as mates, and because their financial situation prevented them
from being in a relationship. The second highest sex-difference
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 7May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 8
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
TABLE 2 | Sex and age effects for the 18 extracted factors.
Overall Women Men Age*
Factors Rank Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD)p-value η2
pp-value η2
p
I am too picky 1 3.17 (1.05) 3.38 (1.05) 2.99 (1.01) <0.001 0.034 0.665 0.002
I want to be free to do whatever I want 2 2.85 (1.02) 2.86 (1.04) 2.84 (0.99) <0.001 0.086 <0.001(+)0.125
I am not good at flirting 3 2.83 (1.05) 2.76 (1.01) 2.91 (1.08) <0.001 0.077 <0.001()0.145
I am not the family type 4 2.57 (1.09) 2.50 (1.06) 2.64 (1.11) <0.001 0.046 0.023 0.018
I am not a desirable mate 5 2.50 (1.07) 2.42 (1.11) 2.58 (1.03) <0.001 0.134 <0.001()0.074
I have different priorities 6 2.42 (0.77) 2.41 (0.76) 2.43 (0.79) 0.273 0.012 <0.001()** 0.233
I fear I will get hurt 7 2.41 (0.92) 2.52 (0.95) 2.32 (0.88) <0.001 0.092 <0.001*** 0.086
Commitment scares me 8 2.21 (0.93) 2.19 (0.96) 2.26 (0.90) <0.001 0.062 <0.001()0.105
I want to spend more time with my friends 9 1.96 (0.79) 1.92 (0.75) 1.99 (0.83) 0.003 0.021 0.002()0.023
I have a health/disability problem 10 1.90 (0.90) 1.88 (0.91) 1.91 (0.90) 0.683 0.004 <0.001()0.076
I experience sexual difficulties 11 1.83 (1.02) 1.77 (0.98) 1.87 (1.05) 0.089 0.008 0.002()0.019
I want to be free to flirt around 12 1.74 (0.82) 1.56 (0.69) 1.90 (0.88) <0.001 0.051 0.096 0.014
I have not gotten over my previous relationship 13 1.51 (0.77) 1.56 (0.81) 1.47 (0.72) 0.075 0.011 0.046 0.012
I move often 14 1.42 (0.89) 1.36 (0.83) 1.47 (0.93) 0.266 0.002 0.055 0.006
I want to devote my attention to my children 15 1.38 (0.84) 1.52 (1.03) 1.26 (0.61) 0.002 0.019 0.241 0.004
Sexual orientation 16 1.28 (0.55) 1.30 (0.58) 1.27 (0.53) 0.016 0.016 0.006 0.019
Addictions 17 1.28 (0.74) 1.15 (0.56) 1.39 (0.82) <0.001 0.020 0.078 0.005
I cannot have children 18 1.21 (0.59) 1.20 (0.60) 1.22 (0.60) 0.574 0.000 0.425 0.001
*The sign of the coefficient of age was placed in parenthesis.
**The sign was positive for the “I believe that I am too old to start a relationship” reason.
***Age was significant with a negative coefficient for the “I am single because I am afraid that my partner will stop loving me” and significant with a positive coefficient for
the “I am single because of bad experiences from previous relationships.”
TABLE 3 | Sex and age effects for the four extracted domains.
Overall Women Men Age*
Domains Rank Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD)p-value η2
pp-value η2
p
Freedom 1 2.31 (0.70) 2.25 (0.67) 2.36 (0.72) <0.001 0.058 <0.001 () 0.066
Low capacity for courtship 2 2.25 (0.77) 2.20 (0.77) 2.30 (0.77) 0.868 0.003 <0.001 () 0.071
Constraints from previous relationships 3 2.12 (0.58) 2.24 (0.62) 2.01 (0.51) <0.001 0.049 0.513 0.005
Personal constraints 4 1.30 (0.41) 1.25 (0.37) 1.34 (0.44) 0.001 0.028 0.004 () 0.023
*The sign of the coefficient of age was placed in parenthesis.
was for the “I fear I will get hurt” factor, where women scored
significantly higher than men. The third in magnitude was the
“I want to be free to do what I want” factor. The total means
were very similar, but there were significant sex differences in
this dimension, where reasons such as having fewer obligations
and avoiding the responsibilities of a relationship were rated
significantly higher by men than women. Men also gave higher
scores than women to the “I am not the family type,” the
“Commitment scares me,” and the “I want to be free to flirt
around” factors. A substantial sex-difference was also found for
the “I am not good at flirting” factor, where men indicated more
than women that they were single because they experienced
anxiety when they were close to an opposite-sex partner, because
they considered themselves boring, and because they were not
good in relationships. Women, on the other hand, were more
likely than men to indicate that they did not have avenues for
meeting available mates.
As indicated by the effect size, the largest age effect was for
the “I have different priorities” factor, where younger individuals
gave higher scores than older ones, as originally predicted. The
second largest effect was for the “I am not good at flirting” factor,
where younger individual also gave higher scores than older ones.
In addition, a large age effect was found for the “I want to be free
to do what I want” factor, where older individuals gave higher
scores than younger ones, as originally predicted.
Finally, we applied a series of MANCOVAs in order to
estimate significant sex and age effects on each of the four
domains. In particular, the factors were entered as the dependent
variables, and participants’ sex and age were entered as the
independent variables. The results are presented in Table 3, where
we can see that significant sex and age effects were found for most
domains. As indicated by the effect size, the largest sex-difference
was in the “Freedom” domain, while the largest effect of age was
in the “Low capacity for courtship” domain.
DISCUSSION
Our analyses indicate that the 92 potential reasons for singlehood
in our current sample could be classified into 18 broad factors,
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 8May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 9
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
TABLE 4 | The occurrence of factors and domains in the sample.
Factors Total Women Men
I am not good at flirting 89% 91.5% 86.8%
I want to be free to do whatever I want 87.3% 89.3% 85.6%
I fear I will get hurt 80.2% 83.1% 77.7%
I have different priorities 79.5% 81.4% 77.7%
I am too picky 75.2% 82.1% 68.9%
I am not a desirable mate 64.8% 61.2% 68%
I am not the family type 61.4% 62.2% 60.7%
Commitment scares me 55.1% 55% 55.1%
I have a health/disability problem 43.5% 45.6% 41.6%
I want to spend more time with my friends 34.7% 36.5% 33.1%
I want to be free to flirt around 23.5% 18.9% 27.6%
I experience sexual difficulties 18.4% 17.9% 18.8%
I have not gotten over my previous relationship 18.1% 22.1% 14.4%
I want to devote my attention to my children 9.3% 15% 4.1%
Sexual orientation 7.9% 8.8% 7%
I move often 5.1% 4.9% 5.3%
I cannot have children 5.1% 4.9% 5.3%
Addictions 3.2% 2% 4.4%
Domains
Low capacity for courtship 94.6% 94.5% 94.7%
Freedom 92.7% 92.8% 92.7%
Constraints from previous relationships 92.1% 93.5% 90.9%
Personal constraints 16% 16.3% 15.8%
For factors, the percentages refer to the number of participants who indicated a
score of “4” or “5” in any of the reasons composing each factor. For domains, the
percentages refer to the number of participants who indicated a score of “4” or “5”
in any of the reasons composing each factor which loaded to each domain.
with the most common ones being poor flirting skills, willingness
to be free, fear of getting hurt, having different priorities, and
being too picky. The 18 factors could be grouped further into four
general domains, with the highest rated ones being ‘Freedom’
and ‘Low capacity for courtship.” Significant sex and age effects
were found across different factors and domains. For instance,
men were more likely than women to indicate that they were
single in order to be free to flirt around, and because they were
not into family making; while women were more likely than
men to indicate that they were single in order to avoid getting
hurt, and because they were not perceiving themselves to be
desirable as mates. Additionally, younger people were more likely
to indicate that they were single because they had poor flirting
skills, they were not desirable as mates, and because they did
not like commitment; whereas older people were more likely to
indicate that they were single in order to be freer to do what they
have wanted.
More specifically, in relation to the “Low capacity for
courtship” domain, people have indicated that they were single
because they were not good at flirting; for instance, they were
shy, introverted, unable to pick up signals of interest, and they
lacked confidence. These difficulties in flirting could be explained
by the mismatch between ancestral and modern conditions: in
an ancestral context, where marriages were arranged and mating
was forced, flirting skills had a limited effect on the capacity to
attract a mate. Regardless of whether people were introverted or
had a poor capacity to pick up clues relating to mating interest,
it would have made little difference given that most marriages
were arranged by parents in that prehistoric context. Accordingly,
selection forces had been weak in shaping good flirting capacity,
which is necessary, however, in a modern context where choice is
freely exercised. The drastic change in environmental conditions,
from mate choice being regulated or forced to one where it is
freely exercised, coupled with the evolutionary recency of this
change – marriages were arranged only a few generations ago in
most Western societies (Coontz, 2006) – can explain why poor
flirting skills were the most frequent reason for being single, with
nearly 90% of the participants indicating that this was one of the
reasons why they did not have intimate partners.
People who scored highly in this domain also appeared to
consider themselves to be undesirable as mates, predominantly
due to their looks. The evolutionary mismatch problem is
also likely to be at play here. When arranging a marriage,
parents have little interest in the looks of their prospective
in-laws (Apostolou, 2014), and this trait has played little role
in predicting success in fights and wars as well. Accordingly,
selection forces acting on traits, which are considered attractive
to mates and/or mechanisms regulating attention to looks were
likely relatively weak, therefore resulting in several individuals
possessing a physical appearance that might not have been
widely acknowledged as attractive in the modern context. People
ascribed much more importance to the looks of a mate than
that of an in-law (Perilloux et al., 2011;Apostolou, 2014), and
such differential preferences would likely suggest that one’s looks
are much more important in a context of free mate choice in
predicting mating success. As a consequence, several people who
may not have an attractive appearance will likely experience
difficulties in their pursuits.
The evolutionary mismatches in other aspects of the
environment may have also affected mating success. More
specifically, recent technological developments have made food
readily available to nearly everyone in Western societies. Food-
intake regulation mechanisms have not had time to adjust to
these conditions, and thus they still operate as if food is in short
supply, resulting in many people becoming obese (Breslin, 2013).
In turn, being overweight might cause difficulties in participating
effectively in the mating market, which likely explains why many
of our participants have indicated that their weight was a reason
for being single. Similarly, people in contemporary societies are
largely overly exposed to TV images, movies and images on the
Internet of people who are significantly above average in terms
of looks and significantly below average in terms of weight (Eyal
and Te’eni-Harari, 2013;Boothroyd et al., 2016). However, TV,
cinema and the Internet are evolutionary novel and as such,
people have not yet evolved to remain rooted in reality based
on information from these sources. In effect, many mate-seekers,
by having their standards for looks and weight determined by
information from the media, may start to feel that they are
overweight or ugly, thereby demotivating them to look for mates.
Within the “low capacity for courtship” domain, health
and disability problems are also prominent issues. Indeed, we
expected the factor that represents these issues to load in the
“constraints” domain and not in here. One possible reason is that
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 9May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 10
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
people may have considered a health problem or a disability as
something that could compromise their capacity to be effective in
the mating market. Further research and empirical validation will
enable us to better understand the processes at play here.
Moving on, people might also prefer to be single in order to
be free to do the things they have wanted (e.g., flirting around,
advancing their careers, and enhancing their social network
by spending more time with friends), as exemplified by the
“Freedom” domain in this study. Participants have also indicated
possible reasons such as being unwilling to make compromises
and to undertake the obligations that a relationship will entail,
as well as not being interested in having a family. Within the
context of our theoretical framework, this domain is related
to the fitness benefits of singlehood. Maintaining an intimate
relationship requires the allocation of resources such as time
and making compromises such as not having sex with other
individuals. People who are single have fewer obligations and
experience fewer compromises on their time in order to advance
in their careers. Also, by not committing to a relationship, people
may be able to have casual relationships with different partners.
Doing so could enable them to refine their flirting skills, and
to gain more mating experience that would enable them to
attract better long-term partners. This strategy could be especially
profitable for the evolutionary fitness of men, whose reproductive
success is strongly correlated with the number of women they
could gain sexual access to. Moreover, by not committing to a
relationship and by flirting around, people may get a better sense
of the mating market and of their own mate value. This domain,
along with the “Low capacity for courtship” one, were the most
prevalent in our sample, suggesting that the primary reasons as
to why some people are single in the United States context were
a consequence of difficulties in attracting mates and a preference
to be free from the restrictions of an intimate relationship.
In addition, participants also reported that they were single
due to reasons relating to their previous relationships, as
indicated by the “Constraints from previous relationships”
domain. Factors within this domain included having children and
having ongoing feelings for their previous partners. Consistent
with these findings, an older study has found that, for women, the
presence of children from a prior marriage reduced the likelihood
of remarriage (Buckle et al., 1996). One possible reason for these
findings is that single people who have children may fear that a
prospective partner may harm their own children (see Daly and
Wilson, 1988), hence resulting in the preference to stay single.
In addition, bad experiences from previous relationships were
also reported to prevent people from going into a relationship,
as some participants feared that they will get hurt again. The
evolutionary mismatch problem is similarly likely to be at play
here. Due to evolutionary mismatch, people might not do well
in intimate relationships in the modern context and might have
accumulated many negative relationship experiences because of
that, which in turn could have rendered them less likely to desire
engaging in an intimate relationship in the future.
Another reason within this domain is being too picky.
This factor can be explained in terms of the fitness benefits
of singlehood, as well as the mismatch problem. Prospective
partners might vary considerably in their mate value; thus, it
could be beneficial for people to avoid entering a relationship with
the first available mate, and to stay single until they have found
one who matches their own mate value instead. Nevertheless,
because parents have played a huge role in controlling mate
choice for their children in ancestral societies, there was an
absence of strong selection pressures on the latter with regards
to refining adaptations involved in mate choice. Because of that,
some individuals might be excessively picky in the contemporary
context – they may for instance, overestimate their own mate
value and attempt to attract mates who may be significantly
beyond their reach, thereby resulting in them remaining single.
Furthermore, the current findings suggest that people may
also stay single due to reasons associated with “Personal
constraints,” such as one suffering from addictions and infertility,
having a homosexual orientation, or having to travel often.
Being gay or lesbian could prevent people from being in a
relationship because same-sex attraction is associated with a
strong social stigma (Fone, 2000); thus, people may prefer to
remain reticent about their sexual orientation and be single
than to enter in a same-sex or opposite-sex union. Another
reason is that, people may live in small cities or villages, where,
apart from the constraints of discrimination against such sexual
preferences, there are also significantly fewer same-sex options
(Apostolou et al., 2018). This domain was demonstrated to be one
of the least prevalent ones, however, perhaps because prevalence
rates of one not being able to have children, having a serious
addiction, and being homosexual, respectively, are relatively low
in the population.
Sex differences are found in several factors. As indicated by
the effect sizes, the largest one is in relation to the “I am not
a desirable mate” factor, where women were much more likely
to indicate issues with their weight as compared to men; the
opposite is true for issues pertaining to a lack of achievement.
This outcome reflects the sex differences in terms of mate
preferences: men would typically place more value on the looks of
a prospective mate, while women would more likely be concerned
about the social standing and wealth of a prospective mate
(Buss, 1989, 2017). Accordingly, men and women who do not,
or who think that they do not excel in these dimensions are
more likely to be demotivated in seeking mates and to stay single
as a consequence.
In addition, single men have also assigned higher scores than
single women to the “I am not the family type,” “Commitment
scares me,” and the “I want to be free to flirt around” factors.
These sex differences are likely accounted for by casual sex
being more beneficial for the fitness of men than for women
(Buss and Schmitt, 2019). A substantial sex difference is also
found for the “I am not good at flirting” factor. This difference
probably reflects the cultural expectation that men should initiate
courtship (Buss, 2017), which in turn suggests that difficulties in
doing so would have a higher impact on them than on women.
Women, on the other hand, were more likely to report having
fewer opportunities to meet available mates. If men are expected
to initiate courtship, but face difficulties in doing so (for instance,
they may be disinclined from flirting with females as a result of
their perceived inability), women may, as a consequence, feel that
they do not have enough mate options to choose from.
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 10 May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 11
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
With respect to age, the largest difference was in the “I
have different priorities” factor, where younger individuals
assigned higher scores than older ones. Instead of directing
their resources in finding and keeping a partner, younger people
might potentially be investing their time in building qualities
such as having a good job instead – attributes, which will
enable them to attract individuals with a higher mate value in
the future. Older people have most likely already done so in
terms of job achievements for instance, which could possibly
explain the observed age effect. In addition, younger participants
were also more likely to indicate that the “I am not good at
flirting” factor was an issue underlying their singlehood than their
older counterparts, perhaps because older people tended to have
accumulated more relationship experience, and thus have had
more opportunities to refine and improve on their flirting skills.
Our findings have revealed several similarities in relation to
previous research in this area. The domains we have extracted
in this study are similar to those identified by Apostolou
(2017). In particular, the “Freedom” domain is very similar
to the “Freedom of choice” domain in Apostolou’s (2017)
study, while the “Low capacity for courtship” and the “Personal
constraints” domains appear to correspond to the “Difficulties
with relationships” and the “Constraints” domains in Apostolou’s
(2017) study, respectively. In both studies, significant sex
differences have been identified, with men regarding freedom
as a more important reason for being single than women.
There are also differences between the current findings and
those of Apostolou’s (2017) study: In the present study, we
have extracted one additional domain, namely “Constraints from
previous relationships,” which was not found in Apostolou’s
(2017) study. In addition, “Low capacity for courtship” was the
second most important domain in the present study, while the
“Difficulties with relationships” was the most important domain
in Apostolou’s (2017) study.
These differences may reflect variations in the study design –
the current study has employed a more inclusive list of
reasons and the sample was composed only of singles, whereas
Apostolou’s (2017) study utilized a shorter list of reasons,
involving mostly non-singles. Differences may also simply reflect
cultural differences. For instance, American culture is more
individualistic than Greek culture, which can likely explain why
the “Freedom” domain has a higher mean in the present study.
Considerably more studies in different cultural contexts are
necessary to examine accurately how cultural factors could affect
the reasons underlying singlehood.
The current research is not without limitations, one being
that it is based on self-report data. What we have measured
here are the reasons that single people think may have led to
their singlehood, which may not necessarily be the actual reasons
for their singlehood status. While we believe that people in
general have a good understanding of why they are single, their
understanding is unlikely to be totally accurate. Participants’
responses may have suffered from the problem of introspection:
they may have produced an explanation for their behavior, which
could be inaccurate because they do not have direct introspective
access to their mental processes (Nisbett and Wilson, 1977). Also,
because the present study did not measure sexual orientation,
and given that homosexuality and bisexuality is found in less
than 10% of the population (LeVay, 2010), our sample was
most probably predominantly heterosexual. The mating market
for people who are either homosexual or bisexual may differ
in many respects from the mating market for heterosexual
people, which means that the hierarchy of reasons we have
found here may be different across different sexual orientation
groups. Future studies need to focus specifically on examining
the reasons due to which non-heterosexual people are single
as well. Furthermore, the study was confined to an American
sample, so our findings may not necessarily be generalizable
to different cultural settings. In addition, we have attempted
to construct an inclusive instrument for measuring the reasons
for singlehood; however, the complexity of the phenomenon
suggests that there may be additional reasons, which may not
have been adequately captured in this study. For instance, safety
concerns may lead some people to not delay entering the mating
market. Such concerns did not emerge in any of the previous
qualitative studies on singlehood, but future studies need to
examine whether they do indeed prevent people from forming
intimate relationships. Moreover, some of these reasons may
be specific to Western cultures, and thus, may not be equally
applicable to non-Western cultures. A large scale, cross-cultural
research study is perhaps necessary in identifying the different
reasons underlying singlehood.
Furthermore, where our sample is concerned, we do not
know whether participants have had romantic relationships in
the past. There may be some differences between people who
have had several relationships in the past and those who only
have had a few or none. In addition, we have employed an
evolutionary perspective in order to interpret our findings.
Yet, other theoretical perspectives may also be used in order
to provide further insights for understanding the reasons for
singlehood. In the same vein, some of the current findings could
be interpreted from a life history perspective, which contends
that, among other things, mate choices are an outcome of the
compromise every individual has to make in terms of the quantity
and quality of one’s progenies, and the amount of investment
in these descendants in response to environmental pressures
(Lummaa, 2007). Nevertheless, given that the measure we have
utilized in relation to the reasons for singlehood was already
92-item long, and that additional questions stemming from
a life history perspective would render the instrument to be
excessively onerous for participants to answer effectively, such
an approach was not adopted in this study. Future research
should attempt to examine the phenomenon from a life history
angle nonetheless, which could potentially provide additional
useful insights.
The current research attempted to shed light regarding the
reasons for singlehood in those who were single. Yet, the
complexity of the phenomenon requires considerably more work
in order to achieve greater understanding of the issue. Future
research needs to examine the reasons, which have led people
to be single in different cultural contexts, as different cultural
conditions could produce different challenges. In addition, future
research work needs to identify different factors, which are also
likely to predict these reasons and the possible interactions
between them. For instance, we expect that having qualities,
which are valued in the mating market, such as good looks and
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 11 May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 12
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
wealth, could also interact with sex, rendering men more likely
to be single in order to be able to have casual relationships with
different partners. Future research may also focus on employing
the current findings in developing appropriate interventions,
which could enable men and women to be more successful in
their mating efforts. For instance, the results of the current
research suggest that a common reason for singlehood is the
lack of good flirting skills. Accordingly, interventions could be
developed with the aim to enhance people’s flirting capacity.
In sum, the current findings have offered a comprehensive
list of reasons as to why single individuals are single, as
reported by singles themselves. These reasons were explicated
through a consideration of evolutionary factors, such as the
notion that singlehood may partly have been an outcome of the
large discrepancy in terms of environmental conditions between
the ancestral context and the modern world. Considerably
more work in this area is necessary, however, if this complex
phenomenon is to be fully understood.
DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
The datasets presented in this article are not readily
available in order to preserve the participants’ confidentiality.
Requests to access the datasets should be directed to the
corresponding author.
ETHICS STATEMENT
This study was carried out in accordance with the
recommendations of the American Psychological Association
with online informed consent from all participants. All
participants gave online informed consent in accordance with
the Declaration of Helsinki. The protocol was approved by
the Aberystwyth University ethics committee (ethics approval
code: 9322).
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
MA designed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the main
manuscript text. JO developed the ethics application for the
study, assisted in coordinating the data collection process, and
has helped with editing the manuscript. GE facilitated the data
collection process. All authors reviewed the manuscript.
FUNDING
This study was supported by the Nanyang Technological
University’s NAP-SUG scheme that was awarded to GE.
REFERENCES
Apostolou, M. (2007). Sexual selection under parental choice: the role of parents in
the evolution of human mating. Evol. Hum. Behav. 28, 403–409. doi: 10.1016/j.
evolhumbehav.2007.05.007
Apostolou, M. (2010). Sexual selection under parental choice in agropastoral
societies. Evol. Hum. Behav. 31, 39–47. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2009.06.
010
Apostolou, M. (2012). Sexual selection under parental choice: evidence from
sixteen historical societies. Evol. Psychol. 10, 504–518.
Apostolou, M. (2014). Sexual Selection Under Parental Choice: The Evolution of
Human Mating Behavior. London: Psychology Press.
Apostolou, M. (2015). Past, present and why people struggle to establish and
maintain intimate relationships. Evol. Behav. Sci. 9, 257–269. doi: 10.1037/
ebs0000052
Apostolou, M. (2017). Why people stay single: an evolutionary perspective. Pers.
Individ. Diff. 111, 263–271. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2017.02.034
Apostolou, M. (2019). Why men stay single: evidence from reddit. Evol. Psychol.
Sci. 5, 87–97. doi: 10.1007/s40806-018-0163-7
Apostolou, M., and Christoforou, C. (2020). The art of flirting: what are the traits
that make it effective? Pers. Individ. Diff. 158:109866. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2020.
109866
Apostolou, M., Papadopoulou, I., and Georgiadou, P. (2019). Are people single by
choice: involuntary singlehood in an evolutionary perspective. Evol. Psychol. Sci.
5, 98–103. doi: 10.1007/s40806-018-0169-1
Apostolou, M., Shialos, M., Kyrou, E., Demetriou, A., and Papamichael, A. (2018).
The challenge of starting and keeping a relationship: prevalence rates and
predictors of poor mating performance. Pers. Individ. Diff. 122, 19–28. doi:
10.1016/j.paid.2017.10.004
Boothroyd, L. G., Jucker, J., Thornborrow, T., Jamieson, M. A., Burt, M. D., Barton,
R. A., et al. (2016). Television exposure predicts body size ideals in rural
Nicaragua. Br. J. Psychol. 107, 752–767. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12184
Bowles, S. (2009). Did warfare among ancestral hunter-gatherers affect the
evolution of human social behaviors? Science 324, 1293–1298. doi: 10.1126/
science.1168112
Breslin, P. A. S. (2013). An evolutionary perspective on food and human taste. Curr.
Biol. 23, R409–R418. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.04.010
Buckle, L., Gallup, G. G., and Rodd, Z. (1996). Marriage as a reproductive contract:
patterns of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Ethol. Sociobiol. 17, 363–377.
doi: 10.1016/s0162-3095(96)00075- 1
Buss, D. M. (1987). “Love acts: the evolutionary biology of love,” in The Psychology
of Love, eds R. J. Sternberg and M. F. Barnes (New Haven: Yale University Press),
100–118.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: evolutionary
hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behav. Brain Sci. 12, 1–49.
Buss, D. M. (2017). The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, 4th Edn.
New York, NY: Basic Books.
Buss, D. M., and Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: an evolutionary
perspective on human mating. Psychol. Rev. 100, 204–232. doi: 10.1037/0033-
295x.100.2.204
Buss, D. M., and Schmitt, D. P. (2019). Mate preferences and their behavioral
manifestations. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 70, 77–110. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-
010418-103408
Chagnon, N. A. (1992). Yanomamo, 4th Edn. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich College Publishers.
Clutton-Brock, T. H. (1991). The Evolution of Parental Care. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1991.
Coontz, S. (2006). Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. New York,
NY: Penguin, 2006.
Crawford, C. (1998). “Environments and adaptations: then and now,” in Handbook
of Evolutionary Psychology, eds C. Crawford and D. Krebs (New York, NY:
Erlbaum), 275–302.
Daly, M., and Wilson, M. (1988). Homicide. New York, NY: Routledge.
DePaulo, B. M., and Morris, W. L. (2005). Singles in society and in science. Psychol.
Inq. 16, 57–83. doi: 10.1207/s15327965pli162%263_01
Ember, C. R., and Ember, M. (1992). Codebook for “Warfare, aggression,
and resource problems: cross-cultural codes.”. Behav. Sci. Res. 26,
169–186.
Ember, C. R., and Ember, M. (1997). “Violence in the ethnographic record: results
of crosscultural research on war and aggression,” in Troubled Times: Violence
and Warfare in the Past, eds D. L. Martin and D. W. Frayer (London: Gordon
& Breach), 1–19.
Eyal, K., and Te’eni-Harari, T. (2013). Explaining the relationship between media
exposure and early adolescents’ body image perceptions: the role of favorite
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 12 May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
fpsyg-11-00746 May 4, 2020 Time: 19:29 # 13
Apostolou et al. Singles’ Reasons for Being Single
characters. J. Media Psychol. Theor. Methods Appl. 25, 129–141. doi: 10.1027/
1864-1105/a000094
Field, A. (2018). Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics, 5th Edn.
New York, NY: Sage.
Fone, B. (2000). Homophobia: A History. New York, NY: Picador.
Ghiglieri, M. P. (1999). The Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of Male Violence.
New York, NY: Perseus Books.
Hitsch, G. J., Hortascu, A., and Ariely, D. (2010). What makes you click? Mate
preferences in online dating. Quant. Mark. Econ. 8, 393–427. doi: 10.1007/
s11129-010- 9088-6
Irons, W. (1998). Adaptive relevant environments versus the environment of
evolutionary adaptedness. Evol. Anthropol. 6, 194–204. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1520-
6505(1998)6:6<194::aid- evan2>3.0.co;2-b
Keegan, J. A. (2004). The History of Warfare. New York: Vintage.
LeVay, S. (2010). Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual
Orientation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Li, N. P., van Vugt, M., and Colarelli, S. M. (2017). The evolutionary mismatch
hypothesis: implications for psychological science. Curr. Direct. Psychol. Sci. 27,
38–44. doi: 10.1177/0963721417731378
Lummaa, V. (2007). “Life history theory, reproduction and longevity in humans,
in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, eds R. I. M. Dunbar and L.
Barrett (New York: Oxford University Press).
Luo, S. (2017). Assortative mating and couple similarity: patterns, mechanisms, and
consequences. Soc. Pers. Psychol. Compass 11:e12337. doi: 10.1111/spc3.12337
Maner, J., and Kenrick, D. T. (2010). When adaptations go awry: functional and
dysfunctional aspects of social anxiety. Soc. Issues Policy Rev. 4, 111–142. doi:
10.1111/j.1751-2409.2010.01019.x
Miller, R. (2011). Intimate Relationships, 6th Edn. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Nisbett, R., and Wilson, T. (1977). Telling more than we can know: verbal reports
on mental processes. Psychol. Rev. 84, 231–259. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.84.3.
231
Nolan, P. D. (2003). Toward an ecological-evolutionary theory of the incidence of
warfare in preindustrial societies. Sociol. Theory 21, 18–30. doi: 10.1111/1467-
9558.00172
Pepping, C. A., and MacDonald, G. (2018). Adult attachment and long-term
singlehood. Curr. Opin. Psychol. 25, 105–109. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.
04.006
Perilloux, C., Fleischman, D. S., and Buss, D. M. (2011). Meet the parents: parent-
offspring convergence and divergence in mate preferences. Pers. Individ. Diff.
50, 253–258. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.09.039
Pew Research Center (2006). Internet & American Life Project, Online Dating
Survey 2005. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.
Pew Research Center (2013). Online Dating & Relationships. Washington, DC: Pew
Research Center.
Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature. New York, NY: Penguin.
Puts, D. A. (2016). Human sexual selection. Curr. Opin. Psychol. 7, 28–32.
Rosenfeld, M. J., Reuben, J. T., and Falcon, M. (2015). How Couples Meet and
Stay Together, Waves 1, 2, and 3: Public Version 3.04, Plus Wave 4 Supplement
Version 1.02 and Wave 5 Supplement Version 1.0 [Computer files]. Palo Alto,
CA: Stanford University Libraries.
Symons, D. (1979). The Evolution of Human Sexuality. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Tooby, J., and Cosmides, L. (1988). The evolution of war and its cognitive
foundations. Instit. Evol. Stud. Tech. Rep. 88, 1–15.
Tooby, J., and Cosmides, L. (2005). “Conceptual foundations of evolutionary
psychology,” in The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, ed. D. M. Buss
(New York: Wiley), 5–67. doi: 10.1002/9780470939376.ch1
Trivers, R. L. (1972). “Parental investment and sexual selection,” in Sexual Selection
and the Descent of Man: 1871-1971, ed. B. Campell (Chicago: Aldine), 136–179.
doi: 10.4324/9781315129266-7
Walker, R. S., Hill, K. R., Flinn, M. V., and Ellsworth, R. M. (2011). Evolutionary
history of hunter-gatherer marriage practices. PLoS One 6:e19066. doi: 10.1371/
journal.pone.0019066
Watson, D., Beer, A., and McDade-Montez, E. (2014). The role of active assortment
in spousal similarity. J. Pers. 82, 116–129. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12039
Watson, D., Klohnen, E. C., Casillas, A., Nus Simms, E., Haig, J., and Berry,
D. S. (2004). Match makers and deal breakers: analyses of assortative mating
in newlywed couples. J. Pers. 72, 1029–1068. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-3506.2004.
00289.x
Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2020 Apostolou, O and Esposito. This is an open-access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).
The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the
original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original
publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academicpractice. No
use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with theseterms.
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 13 May 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 746
... Recent theoretical and empirical work, has argued that there are four main reasons why people are single (for a more extensive discussion see Apostolou et al., 2020;Apostolou & Wang, 2019). The first one, relates to the evolutionary mismatch (Li et al., 2017). ...
... Finally, personal constraints, such as poor physical health, can also prevent people from attracting mates. Recent empirical work has found that reasons for being single classify to broader domains which are consistent with this theorization (Apostolou, 2017;Apostolou et al., 2020). ...
... Qualitative research employing interviews, open-ended questionnaires and unobtrusive data, has found that several people indicated that they were single because of their sexual orientation. When items on sexual orientation were used in quantitative studies, they loaded to the constraints factor (Apostolou, 2017;Apostolou et al., 2020). In turn, this finding suggests that, for several people, their homosexual orientation prevents them from forming an intimate relationship. ...
Article
The social stigma attached to same-sex attraction, along with the limited availability of same-sex outlets, are likely to cause difficulties to homosexual people in attracting intimate partners. Based on this reasoning, the current study aimed to test the hypothesis that homosexual people would be more likely to be involuntarily single, and would experience longer spells of singlehood than people of other sexual orientations. Evidence from a sample of 10,939 Greek-speaking participants, indicated that homosexual people were not less likely than people of other sexual orientations to be in a relationship than involuntarily single. However, homosexual people were considerably less likely to be married than people of other sexual orientations, with the effect being more pronounce for men than for women. In addition, male homosexuals experienced longer spells of singlehood than men of other sexual orientations, but no such effect was found for women.
... Hal tersebut dapat dikarenakan menurunnya keinginan individu dewasa awal untuk berhubungan romantis. Faktor yang dapat mendorong keinginan untuk tidak berhubungan romantis seperti keinginan untuk bebas, tidak ingin tersakiti, tidak ingin berkomitmen, tidak percaya diri dengan penampilan, fokus dengan karir, dan merasa tidak memiliki kemampuan menarik calon pasangan (Ang, Lee, & Lie, 2020;Apostolou, O, & Esposito, 2020). ...
... Singlehood merupakan individu yang sedang tidak atau belum pernah berhubungan romantis dalam jangka waktu lama (Vahav, 2015). Terdapat tiga alasan individu menjadi singlehood (Apostolou, O, & Esposito, 2020), yaitu; 1) menjadi lajang dapat meningkatkan kemampuan, dengan tidak menjalin hubungan romantis individu memiliki kebebasan untuk fokus dalam bekerja, pendidikan, dan kemampuan lain untuk meningkatkan diri agar lebih mudah mencari pasangan di kemudian hari; 2) perbedaan kondisi mencari pasangan di masa lalu dan kini, pada masa lalu individu banyak mendapatkan pasangan melalui perjodohan sedangkan saat ini individu lebih bebas dalam mencari pasangan sehingga untuk beberapa individu merasa kesulitan; dan 3) perbedaan keinginan mencari Buletin Riset Psikologi dan Kesehatan Mental (BRPKM) 2022, Vol. 2(1), 677-685 pasangan, karena merasa individu belum cukup untuk berhubungan romantis belum bertemu calon pasangan yang tepat (Frazier dkk., 1996), beberapa individu memiliki keinginan yang rendah untuk menjalin hubungan romantis. ...
Full-text available
Article
Kesejahteraan psikologis merupakan kemampuan berfungsi positif individu dengan diri sendiri maupun orang lain. Salah satu faktor yang dapat mempengaruhi kesejahteraan psikologis adalah status hubungan romantis. Singlehood merupakan individu yang sedang tidak atau belum pernah berhubungan romantis dalam jangka waktu yang lama. Terdapat dua tipe singlehood, yaitu voluntary dan involuntary singlehood. Berdasarkan perbedaan tipe tersebut, tujuan dari penelitian ini adalah mengetahui perbedaan kesejahteraan psikologis antara voluntary dan involuntary singlehood. Penelitian dilakukan pada perempuan dewasa awal usia 20-25 tahun dengan jumlah 74 partisipan, dengan rincian 52 partisipan voluntary singlehood dan 22 partisipan involuntary singlehood. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan tidak ditemukan perbedaan kesejahteraan psikologis yang signifikan antara voluntary dan involuntary singlehood pada perempuan dewasa awal. Dimensi yang menunjukkan perbedaan signifikan hanya ditemukan pada dimensi otonomi.
... Likewise, since Apostolou et al. (2020) and Apostolou (2021) found being too picky or choosy and feeling anxious to interact with opposite-sex individuals a reason behind people staying single, it is therefore assumed that narcissism and social anxiety play a role in attitudes toward singlehood, respectively. We first measured narcissism and social anxiety then statistically excluded their effect to have a clearer picture of the relationship of SSES, relational mobility, and desirability of control with attitudes toward singlehood. ...
... Taken together, the findings suggest that financial concern is the key to shaping young adults' attitudes toward singlehood. This is consistent with the literature (e.g., Petrowski et al., 2015;Apostolou et al., 2020) that financial situation is a hindrance to engaging in a relationship. ...
Full-text available
Article
With both theories and empirical studies supporting the benefits of having a romantic relationship, there remains an increasing tendency of staying single being documented globally. It is thus important to understand the antecedent factors of such voluntary single movement. Guided by the Investment Model of Commitment (IMC) process, the roles of subjective socioeconomic status (SSES), relational mobility, and desirability of control in attitudes toward singlehood were investigated. A total of 1,108 undergraduate students from Malaysia ( n =444), Japan ( n =316), and India ( n =348) answered an online survey consisting of the Attitudes toward Singlehood Scale, MacArthur Scale of SSES, Relational Mobility Scale, Desirability of Control Scale, Mini-Social Phobia Inventory, and Single Item Narcissism Scale. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis showed a persistent positive relationship between desirability of control, but not socioeconomic status and relational mobility, with attitudes toward singlehood, even after statistically excluding the effects of social anxiety and narcissism. A similar pattern was also observed among those who were currently single. Moreover, an interaction effect of socioeconomic status and relational mobility was found in further exploratory analysis. The results highlight that retaining the autonomy and flexibility of managing one’s own life and financial concern are the key reasons young adults prefer staying single to engaging in a romantic relationship. Implications and recommendations for future research are also presented in this study.
... To this end, people are more likely to benefit from pursuing education and career goals to secure financial stability (see Goyette, 2008) compared to previous generations. Thus, remaining single may facilitate the pursuit of other important life goals and interests (Apostolou et al., 2020), which are often viewed as incompatible with relationship goals (Hill, 2020). Supporting this perspective, people are now prioritizing their education and career goals more than their romantic relationship goals (Ranta et al., 2014), and younger people are remaining single for longer periods of time (Klinenberg, 2012) and marrying at older ages (Wang & Parker, 2014) compared to previous generations. ...
Article
Societal changes over recent decades have drastically transformed the frequency and manner in which people are exposed to attractive alternative relationship partners, arguably resulting in such alternatives posing a greater threat to committed relationships now than ever before. Yet despite a growing need for novel research on attractive alternatives, research on this topic has failed to account for such changes and thus is growing stagnant. Specifically, although interdependence perspectives and supporting research have consistently and robustly demonstrated that (a) attractive alternatives threaten committed relationships and (b) committed partners protect their relationships by devaluing such alternatives, research has yet to examine how the changing nature of attractive alternatives might affect these processes. To this end, the present article first reviews foundational theory and research that guided the study of attractive alternatives and then highlights how recent societal changes (e.g., technology that increases access to attractive alternatives, increasingly diverse relationship types, the emerging desire to remain single) diverge from this research and thus warrant new directions. We encourage researchers to expand how they study attractive alternatives and to ultimately reignite research on this increasingly important topic.
... In addition, one study analyzed 6794 replies from a recent Reddit thread, asking men why they were single, and found that being introverted was among the most common responses (Apostolou, 2019). A different study, employed a sample of 648 American participants, and asked them to rate 92 possible reasons for being single (Apostolou et al., 2020). Using principal components analysis, these reasons were classified in 18 factors. ...
Article
Not having an intimate partner constitutes a common state in contemporary societies, and the current study aimed to examine the relationship between personality, marital status and the length of singlehood. More specifically, we hypothesized that extraversion would be a significant predictor of singlehood. Consistent with this hypothesis, using a sample of 1418 Greek-speaking participants, we found that lower scores in extraversion were associated with higher probability to be involuntarily single than in an intimate relationship, and with more prolonged spells of singlehood. Furthermore, higher scores in openness were associated with higher probability to be voluntarily single than in an intimate relationship, and with more prolonged spells of singlehood.
Article
Despite the growing interest in single (unpartnered) individuals’ well-being, there is a lack of descriptive research providing a comprehensive understanding of what singles value in their lives. In this research, we adopted a budget allocation methodology to examine what domains are prioritized in single individuals’ construal of a satisfying single life. We recruited two samples of participants, one primarily consisting of singles from Europe and America ( N = 851) and the other from Korea ( N = 1012). Across the two samples, we found that singles gave high priority to being mentally and physically healthy and having good family relationships. Only when those essentials were accounted for did single individuals turn significant attention to other life domains such as having good friendships, available romantic connections, and sexual opportunities. These findings have implications for understanding single individuals’ life priorities and well-being and set the groundwork for further research on singlehood.
Full-text available
Article
The number of single women in Indonesia is increasing, but single women in Indonesia are also vulnerable to negative stereotypes. Unpleasant experiences experienced by single women can have a negative impact. This study examines the association between negative stereotypes and psychological well-being and the mediating effect of fear of being single. The study participants were 196 single women aged 25 – 55 years, had completed their high school, and staying in Indonesia. Participants reported their experiences as single such as psychological well-being, happiness, negative stereotypes, fear of being single, dating experience, and desire to marry. Those experiences were measured by Ryff’s psychological well-being scale (α=0,80), Pignotti’s & Abell’s negative stereotyping of single persons scale(α=0,754-0,88) , Spielman’s fear of being scale (α=0,829), conscientiousness of BFI personality scale (α=0,821) and open questionnaire. Linear regression analysis was performed to test the relationship between variables. The results show that negative stereotypes reduce the psychological well-being of single women in Indonesia, and the fear of being single mediates the association between the two variables. Findings of this study indicate the need for social change to replace unfavourable labels received by single women in Indonesia and provide information for improving the psychological well-being of single Indonesian women. Keywords: fear of being single; negative stereotypes; psychological well-being; single women Abstrak Jumlah perempuan lajang di Indonesia semakin meningkat, namun perempuan lajang di Indonesia juga rentan mengalami stereotip negatif. Pengalaman tidak menyenangkan yang dialami perempuan lajang ini dapat membawa dampak negatif. Penelitian ini mengkaji asosiasi antara stereotip negatif dan kesejahteraan psikologis serta efek mediasi dari ketakutan menjadi lajang. Partisipan penelitian adalah 196 perempuan lajang berusia 25 – 55 tahun, berpendidikan minimal setara dengan SMA dan berdomisili di Indonesia yang melaporkan pengalaman sebagai lajang seperti kesejahteraan psikologis, kebahagiaan, stereotip negatif, ketakutan menjadi lajang, pengalaman berpacaran, dan keinginan untuk menikah. Pengalaman partisipan diukur dengan skala kesejahteraan psikologis Ryff (α=0,80), skala stereotip negatif individu lajang Pignotti dan Abell (α=0,754-0,88), skala fear of being single Spielman (α=0,829), skala BFI kepribadian conscientiousness (α=0,821). Analisis regresi linear dilakukan untuk menguji hubungan antar variabel. Hasil menunjukkan stereotip negatif menurunkan kesejahteraan psikologis perempuan lajang di Indonesia dan ketakutan menjadi lajang memediasi asosiasi kedua variabel tersebut. Temuan penelitian ini menunjukkan perlunya perubahan sosial untuk mengganti label buruk yang diterima perempuan lajang di Indonesia serta menjadi informasi bagi peningkatan kesejahteraan psikologis perempuan lajang Indonesia. Kata kunci: ketakutan menjadi lajang; kesejahteraan psikologis; perempuan lajang; stereotip negatif
Article
The nine‐item Attitudes toward Singlehood Scale (AtSS) is a newly developed measurement for people to self‐report their manners toward staying single. The original English‐version AtSS shows sound psychometric properties in the Malaysian and Indian contexts. To necessarily adapt the AtSS in cross‐cultural studies, we developed the Japanese version of the AtSS (AtSS‐J) and examined its psychometric qualities in a sample of 316 Japanese undergraduate students. The participants answered an online survey consisting of the AtSS‐J, a (single‐item) preference for being single, the Mini‐Social Phobia Inventory, the Single Item Narcissism Scale, and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Confirmatory factor analysis supports that the AtSS‐J has a second‐order factor structure (error covariance specified between Items 3 and 5) composed of three first‐order specific factors (affect, behavior, and cognition). Both Cronbach's alpha and McDonald's omega estimates indicated good reliability in the AtSS‐J. Moreover, convergent and discriminant validity of the AtSS‐J are evident, while the concurrent validity with life satisfaction as criterion variable showed inconsistent results. Overall, our findings offer preliminary support to the usability of the AtSS‐J.
Article
Flirting is essential for attracting mates yet, many people do poorly in it. Accordingly, the current research aimed to address the question what are dealbreakers in flirting. More specifically, by using open-ended questionnaires in a sample of 212 Greek-speaking participants, Study 1 identified 69 acts and traits that people find off-putting in flirting. Study 2, asked a sample of 734 Greek-speaking participants to rate how off-putting they found these traits in a partner. On the basis of participants' responses, these traits were classified into 11 broader flirting dealbreakers. The most off-putting ones, included having a slimy approach, bad hygiene, and not demonstrating exclusive interest. It was also found that women and older participants were more sensitive to almost all of the identified dealbreakers than men and younger participants.
Full-text available
Article
The aim of this research is to develop a scale that aims to determine the attitudes of single individuals towards singlehood. This study was conducted with 675 single individuals over the age of 18. Data is collected from two groups in this scale development process. Exploratory Factor Analysis was performed on the data collected from 351 single individuals in the first study group. The second research group consists of 324 singles who were reached for Confirmatory Factor Analysis. As a result of the factor analysis conducted to determine the construct validity of the scale, a two-factor structure was obtained. These two factors, which are called "reasons for preferring singlehood" and "feelings about singlehood" explain 53.41% of the total variance. Values for item factor load change between .52 and. 88. The results of the Confirmatory Factor Analysis showed that this two-factor model was validated. The Cronbanch’ alpha internal consistency coefficient of the scale was calculated as 93. Item-total test correlations range between .41 and .75. The Attitude Towards Singlehood Scale is a five-point Likert-type scale consisting of 25 items. It can be stated that the Attitude towards Singlehood Scale is a reliable and valid measurement tool in determining the attitudes of single individuals towards singlehood.
Full-text available
Article
Evolved mate preferences comprise a central causal process in Darwin's theory of sexual selection. Their powerful influences have been documented in all sexually reproducing species, including in sexual strategies in humans. This article reviews the science of human mate preferences and their myriad behavioral manifestations. We discuss sex differences and sex similarities in human sexual psychology, which vary according to short-term and long-term mating contexts. We review context-specific shifts in mating strategy depending on individual, social, and ecological qualities such as mate value, life history strategy, sex ratio, gender economic inequality, and cultural norms. We review the empirical evidence for the impact of mate preferences on actual mating decisions. Mate preferences also dramatically influence tactics of mate attraction, tactics of mate retention, patterns of deception, causes of sexual regret, attraction to cues to sexual exploitability, attraction to cues to fertility, attraction to cues to resources and protection, derogation of competitors, causes of breakups, and patterns of remarriage. We conclude by articulating unresolved issues and offer a future agenda for the science of human mating, including how humans invent novel cultural technologies to better implement ancient sexual strategies and how cultural evolution may be dramatically influencing our evolved mating psychology. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology Volume 70 is January 4, 2019. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Full-text available
Article
A substantial proportion of people living in Western societies do not have an intimate partner. The current research attempts to estimate the occurrence of people who are involuntary single—they want to be in an intimate relationship but they find it difficult to do so—in the Greek cultural context. Evidence from two independent studies (N = 1682) indicated that about half of the participants who were single, they were involuntary so. It was also found that, mating performance—how well people do in starting and keeping an intimate relationship—was a significant predictor of involuntary singlehood, with low scorers facing a higher probability to be involuntary single than high scorers.
Full-text available
Article
In Western societies, a substantial proportion of the adult population does not have an intimate partner. The current paper puts forward an evolutionary theoretical framework, where people stay single for three main reasons, namely the mismatch between ancestral and modern conditions has resulted in several individuals lacking the adaptations necessary for attracting and retaining mates, individuals can increase their fitness by opting out of relationships, and individuals have constraints that prevent them from attracting a mate. The paper attempted to identify the reasons that drive men to be single and to investigate whether they were consistent with the proposed theoretical framework. More specifically, 13,429 responses from a recent Reddit thread were analyzed, and 6794 responses were coded and classified in 43 categories. Among the most frequent reasons that men indicated for being single included poor flirting skills, low self-confidence, poor looks, shyness, low effort, and bad experience from previous relationships.
Full-text available
Article
Human psychological mechanisms are adaptations that evolved to process environmental inputs, turning them into behavioral outputs that, on average, increase survival or reproductive prospects. Modern contexts, however, differ vastly from the environments that existed as human psychological mechanisms evolved. Many inputs now differ in quantity and intensity or no longer have the same fitness associations, thereby leading many mechanisms to produce maladaptive output. We present the precepts of this evolutionary mismatch process, highlight areas of mismatch, and consider implications for psychological science and policy.
Full-text available
Article
Assortative mating refers to the tendency of two partners' characteristics to be matched in a systematic manner, usually in the form of similarity. Mating with a similar partner has profound implications at the species, societal, and individual levels. This article provides a comprehensive review of research on couple similarity since 1980s. The review begins with the general patterns and trends observed in couple similarity on a range of domains including demographic variables, physical/physiological characteristics, abilities, mental well-being, habitual behaviors, attitudes, values, and personality. Next the bulk of the review focuses on analyses of 4 mechanisms leading to similarity: initial active choice, mating market operation, social homogamy, and convergence. Specific future research avenues are outlined to improve understanding of these mechanisms. Finally, the review discusses genetic, social, and psychological consequences of couple similarity.
Article
Flirting is an essential aspect of human interaction and key for the formation of intimate relationships. In the current research, we aimed to identify the traits that turn it more effective. In particular, in Study 1 we used open-ended questionnaires in a sample of 487 Greek-speaking participants, and identified 47 traits that make flirting effective. In Study 2, we asked 808 Greek-speaking participants to rate how effective each trait would be on them. Using principal components analysis, we classified these traits into nine broader factors. Having a good non-verbal behavior, being intelligent and having a gentle approach, were rated as the most important factors. Sex difference were found for most of the factors. For example, women rated gentle approach as more effective on them, while men rated good looks as more effective. Last but not least, older participants rated factors, such as the "Gentle approach," to be more effective on them.
Article
Rates of singlehood are increasing rapidly in the Western World. In the current paper, we discuss the phenomenon of long-term singlehood from an attachment perspective, outline three distinct sub-groups of singles (anxious, avoidant, and secure), and demonstrate the utility of these groups by highlighting their unique characteristics and possible life outcomes, including factors that may moderate these outcomes. Finally, we offer suggestions for future research to enhance our understanding of this vastly under-researched population.
Article
There are reasons to believe that the mechanisms involved in mating, evolved in a context where marriages were arranged and male-male competition was strong. Thus, they may not work well in a post-industrial context, where mating is not regulated and where male-male competition is weak. As a consequence of the mismatch between ancestral and modern conditions, several individuals may face difficulties in the domain of mating. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence rates of poor mating performance and to identify some of its predictors. In particular, evidence from 1894 Greek and Greek-Cypriot participants from three independent studies, indicated that about one in five individuals found intimate relationships difficult, about one in two experienced difficulties in either starting or keeping a relationship, and about one in five experienced difficulties in both starting and keeping a relationship. Moreover, it was found that sexual functioning, self-esteem, self-perceived mate value, choosiness, personality, attention to looks, and mating effort were significant predictors of poor mating performance. It was also found that men and women closely overlapped in their mating performance, while age did not predict how well people do in the domain of mating.