A High Power-Low Power Account of Sexual Jealousy

Johnston, Catherine Lee (Ph.D., 1982)

Thesis directed by Professor Peter G. Ossorio

Jealousy is expressed in heterogeneous ways in comparison to normative expressions of other emotions, for example, expressions of fear, anger, and guilt. The intent of this study was to identify some of the bases of this variety, and to offer a conceptualization and definition which would account for some of this diversity, and provide a groundwork for empirically addressing the topic.

An attempt was made to account for many of the differences found between men and women in terms of their jealous feelings and behaviors by assuming that, in their personal sexual relationships, men tend to be in the high power position, and women in the low power position. A questionnaire was designed to seek further support for this conceptualization. Certain sources of regularity in the expression of jealousy--those based on gender, and on the high power-low power relationship--were examined.

Participants, numbering 264, were almost all University of Colorado students.

The results provided support for the status conceptualization of jealousy, but suggest that other aspects of jealousy beyond the high power-low power aspect are important. The high power reactions expected for men were generally found in the data. The low power reactions expected for women were found in the data a good part of the time. However, the findings indicate that both men and women exhibit some high power reactions and some low power reactions. These findings may possibly be related to changing norms for male and female behaviors and attitudes. [232 pp.]