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Relationship quality and men's oxidative stress




Merriman, Leslie A., author
Steger, Michael F., advisor
Souza, Caridad, committee member
Harman, Jennifer, committee member

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The association between oxidative stress and quality of romantic relationships was investigated in a sample of 98 college males. Given a postulated life history trade-off between current and future reproductive potential, men currently in higher quality romantic relationships may expend less general mating effort (i.e., less energy allocation to finding, attracting, and competing for new mates) than single men or men in lesser quality relationships. Reduced mating effort may allow greater allocation of energy to anti-oxidant defense systems, and increased resistance to oxidative damage by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Consistent with this prediction, men who reported being in higher quality romantic relationships (i.e., relationships characterized by greater mutual investment and emotional engagement) had significantly lower levels of oxidative stress than men lacking such relationships. Neither testosterone nor cortisol mediated the effect. Due to the correlational nature of the research design, causal relations are unclear; theoretical interpretations are discussed. Resistance to oxidative damage could be a physiological mechanism by which the experience of being in a higher quality romantic relationship manifests in direct health benefits. Alternatively, men with inherently greater resistance to oxidative damage (due to less ROS production, better functioning anti-oxidant defense, or both) may be more likely to achieve such relationships, owing to pre-existing superior quality or fitness.


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men's health
oxidative stress


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