Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-19-2023


Variations in childhood conditions may favor different strategies of investment in pair-bonds and reproduction. The current study followed 213 romantically-involved women up to four times across the ovulatory cycle. Analyses find that childhood health and adversity moderate hormone-dependent changes in women’s sexual interests, oxytocin responses, and mate preferences. In light of proposed paternity assurance functions of extended (non-conceptive) sexuality, results suggest women with poorer, compared to better, childhood conditions prioritize bond formation but invest less in maintaining or bolstering partner investment. The estrous (conceptive) sexuality of women with poor childhood health may reflect greater investments in current reproduction, even when partner investment is lacking or uncertain, whereas women with better childhood health and security suppress conceptive sexual motivations in those circumstances. Evidence indicates that women with adverse childhoods place higher value on sire genetic quality. Overall, findings suggest women’s mating strategies depend on the value and expectations of partner investment.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Marco Del Giudice

Second Committee Member

Steven Gangestad

Third Committee Member

Tania Reynolds

Fourth Committee Member

Melissa Emery Thompson




Evolutionary psychology, life history, childhood adversity, ovulatory cycle, mating strategies, romantic relationships

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