Network Medicine

Sex differences in intimate relationships

Social networks based on dyadic relationships are fundamentally important for understanding of human sociality. However, we have little understanding of the dynamics of close relationships and how these change over time. Evolutionary theory suggests that, even in monogamous mating systems, the pattern of investment in close relationships should vary across the lifespan when post-weaning investment plays an important role in maximizing fitness. Mobile phone data sets provide a unique window into the structure and dynamics of relationships. We here use data from a large mobile phone dataset to demonstrate striking sex differences in the gender-bias of preferred relationships that reflect the way the reproductive investment strategies of both sexes change across the lifespan, i.e. women’s shifting patterns of investment in reproduction and parental care. These results suggest that human social strategies may have more complex dynamics than previously assumed and a life-history perspective is crucial for understanding them.


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