According to a study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, a person’s voice pitch can signal something about the way they maintain their romantic relationships, at least among men. Men with lower voice pitch variation — indicating a more masculine voice — used less positive communication patterns within their relationships and were more likely to have an avoidant attachment style.
A speaker’s voice has been found to convey information about their relationship behavior. For example, voice pitch has been linked to a person’s physical attractiveness and even their likelihood of engaging in infidelity. Study authors Jing Zhang and Lijun Zheng proposed that voice pitch might also be associated with the way a person maintains romantic relationships.
A consistent finding within psychology research is that a lower voice pitch among men is tied to greater testosterone levels. In turn, higher levels of testosterone have been linked to an avoidant attachment style, an attitude toward relationships that is defined by an avoidance of intimacy and a discomfort with closeness. Moreover, greater testosterone has been linked to diminished prosocial emotions, including trust and compassion.
Following this reasoning, Zhang and Zheng conducted a study among 218 undergraduate students (90 men and 128 women). The students filled out a questionnaire that measured their attachment style. In addition to avoidant attachment, the scale also measured anxious attachment — an attachment style characterized by clinginess and a persistent need for reassurance from one’s partner. Next, participants completed a scale that measured the communication patterns they typically use when confronting relationship issues.
The students were then asked to speak five different expressions into a microphone. The researchers later analyzed these utterances, measuring their fundamental frequency (F0) — an indicator of voice pitch. They also calculated each subject’s variation in F0 across the five words or their standard deviation of fundamental frequency (F0-SD).
Among men, a lower F0-SD, suggesting a more masculine voice, was linked to greater avoidant attachment and decreased use of mutual constructive communication. However, among women, voice pitch was unrelated to either attachment styles or communication patterns.
While reflecting on their findings, Zhang and Zheng note that people with feminine traits tend to display greater warmth and empathy, qualities that are important for maintaining healthy relationships. It therefore follows that men with more feminine voices might be more prone to adopting relationship maintenance behaviors within their relationships, such as positive communication strategies. It could be that testosterone underlies both of these variables — with lower levels of testosterone being linked to more feminine voices and also more relationship-promoting communication strategies.
Another explanation for their findings might have to do with the fact that men with more masculine voices are typically seen as more attractive to women. It could be that men with more feminine voices tend to adopt more favorable communication strategies and attachment styles to increase their mate value.
The authors note that their sample was made up entirely of students, and their relationships were likely less secure compared to the general population. The study may have underestimated the link between voice pitch and relationship maintenance, and it will be important to conduct future studies among a wider sample of participants.
The study, “Masculine Voices Predict Attachment Style and Relationship Communication Patterns in Romantic Relationships”, was authored by Jing Zhang, and Lijun Zheng.