New research suggests that women who score high on narcissism receive lower levels of insults from their romantic partner, whereas women who score high on psychopathy receive higher levels of verbal insults, which is associated with mate retention behaviors by their partner. The findings have been published in Personality and Individual Differences.
Humans often engage in mate retention behaviors to maximize their reproductive success and aim to avoid their mate being poached (pursued by someone else). Men tend to engage in mate retention behaviors more often when their partner is of high mate value. Men with lower mate value typically engage in cost-inflicting behaviors whereas men of high mate value engage in benefit-provisioning behaviors. Individuals who score high on the Dark Triad traits (Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism) typically use mate retention behaviors more often.
Researchers Vlad Burtăverde, Todd Shackelford, and Mohaned Abed were interested in investigating how women who score high on Dark Triad traits respond to mate retention behaviors. Burtăverde and collogues recruited 223 female undergraduate participants. 62.4% of the participants were in a relationship. Participants responded to 27 items from the Short Dark Triad Insults Scale.
Results of this study show that, of the Dark Triad traits, Machiavellianism was not associated with cost-inflicting mate retention behaviors. Women who scored high on narcissism experienced less derogating value by their partner and women who scored high on psychopathy experienced increased derogating physical attractiveness, derogating value as a partner, being accused of infidelity, and cost-inflicting mate retention behaviors such as being verbally insulted. Women who scored higher on psychopathy and desired marriage experienced more derogating value as a person, accusations of sexual infidelity, and cost-inflicting mate retention behaviors by their partner.
Burtăverde and colleagues argue that women who score high on narcissism likely experience less frequent cost-inflicting mate retention behaviors by their partners because these women have higher mate value. Their partners may engage in more benefit-provisioning mate retention tactics because there are fewer negative consequences.
Men who derogate their partner’s physical attractiveness, her value as a partner, accuse her of sexual infidelity, may engage in cost-inflicting mate retention behaviors when the female scores high on psychopathy because these women are known to have higher mating effort, sociosexuality, and more proneness to commit infidelity.
Thus, these men may be more suspicious of their partner’s fidelity and use more cost-inflicting tactics to ensure their partner is not sexually engaging with other men. Burtăverde and colleagues argue that women who score high on psychopathy and have a desire for marriage are more likely to be victims of cost-inflicting mate retention efforts by their partner because these women are highly desired by men who are interested in pursuing a long-term relationship.
A limitation of this research is that young women were studied, so the findings may not be generalizable to populations of different ages. Another limitation is that women reported whether they intended to marry but were not asked about further information regarding the desire for marriage which may lead to construct-irrelevant variance. Lastly, this study relied on a cross-sectional design, and causal relationships cannot be inferred.
The study, “Women higher in psychopathy and more interested in marriage are subjected to more verbal insults by their long-term partner“, was published February 22, 2022.