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Serial monogamy increases reproductive success in men but not in women


  • Markus Jokela
  • Anna Rotkirch
  • Ian J. Rickard
  • Jenni Pettay
  • Virpi Lummaa


Evolutionary theory predicts that males seek more sexual partners than females because of their higher fitness benefits from such a reproductive strategy. Accordingly, variance in numbers of partners and offspring is expected to be greater and association between mating and reproductive success to be stronger in males. Studies testing key predictions of this hypothesis in humans are lacking. Using data of 3700 men and 4010 women living in contemporary United States, we examined sex differences in the variance of number of spouses and offspring and in the association between spouse number and number of offspring. The results suggested a stronger selective advantage of serial monogamy in men than in women. Variance in spouse and offspring number was, respectively, 5% and 10% higher in men. In addition, the association between mating and reproductive success was stronger in men, so that men with 3 or more consecutive spouses had 19% more children than men with only spouse, whereas spouse number beyond the first partner was not associated with number of children in women. When the sample was stratified by ethnic group, the sex differences were stronger among Black and Hispanic participants than among White participants. Copyright 2010, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus Jokela & Anna Rotkirch & Ian J. Rickard & Jenni Pettay & Virpi Lummaa, 2010. "Serial monogamy increases reproductive success in men but not in women," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 21(5), pages 906-912.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:21:y:2010:i:5:p:906-912

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    Cited by:

    1. Catalano, Ralph, 2011. "Selection in utero contributes to the male longevity deficit," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(6), pages 999-1003, March.
    2. Gine Roll Skjærvø & Eivin Røskaft, 2015. "Wealth and the opportunity for sexual selection in men and women," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 26(2), pages 444-451.

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