9. BASAL VS. RECIPROCAL MODELS: DIVORCE AND MARRIAGE
Mazur suggests that basal T levels are generally consistent (and
static) in an individual, furthermore he suggests that measurements of
T can predict behaviour. He contrasts this with a reciprocal model
whereby T levels rise and fall in response to the stability of a man's
social position. So the environmental conditions cause differences in T
levels over and above the basal level. No problem with this, it makes
sense that what is going on has an effect on hormone levels, which also
cause B/P to rise and fall with the relative levels of stress
The first point tho', that behaviour may be PREDICTED by T levels seems
untestab le. If the level of T fluctuates, then a measurement at a
given time may be a reliable indicator of what is happening at that
time, but behaviour is controlled by more than just hormone levels.
Social norms, upbringing and situational context must have a strong
bearing on the expression of behaviour.
The idea that men with high levels of T do not make good marriages
overgeneralises the point that high levels of T lead to an
over-dominant/possibly aggressive personality. Also, if women find men
with these features more attractive, there is presumably no shortage of
mates for these men. To suggest that they show antisocial tendencies
which threaten family stability is only looking at one aspect of
domination, that of men over women. Surely these men are just as likely
to flex their high T level features in the direction of other men, or
direct them into work projects?
The paragraph below outlines difficulties within partnerships
encountered by men with high T levels (in military personnel):
> The likelihood of never marrying is 50% higher, among men who have
> married, those at the higher level of T are 43% more likely to divorce.
> Once married, men with higher T are 31% more likely to leave home
> because of a troubled relationship with their wife, 38% more likely to
> have extramarital sex, and 13% more likely to report hitting or
> throwing things at their spouse. In addition, high T men are more
> likely to report a lower quality of marital interaction.
They add that this is not limited to men with exceptionally high T
levels. Since the study used ex-service personnel, the behaviour
demonstrated may have been more typical of this group than the general
public and generalisation to the whole may not be appropriate.
> Those with a T level one standard deviation above the mean are 28% more
> likely to engage in criminal behaviour than those one standard
> deviation below the mean.
What about compared to the mean?
> An analysis of factors that predict exposure to military combat reveals
> that T increases the likelihood of exposure (Gimbel and Booth 1994). It
> is unclear whether high T individuals take an active role in seeking
> out combat or if those in command recognize behaviors that make the
> individual a better combatant and assign him accordingly. It is also
> possible that high T individuals are antisocial enough to get combat
> assignments as punishment.
I took issue with this in the lecture, it may be the case that in the
past, going "to the front" was seen as punishment, today's army is very
different, in fact most serving soldiers relish and seek out active
duty. Assuming that the US Army is no different to the British Army,
the soldiers who are unable to conform and obey orders are more likely
to end up in the guardroom than fighting the enemy. No officer wants a
man who cannot be completely trusted to do as commanded, for the good
of his comrades, at his side. The analogy with Goliath is, I believe, a
false one. These individuals are afterall, indulging in antisocial
activities rather than heroic ones.
> Furthermore, men who divorced during the decade of the study had
> elevated T in the examinations just before and after their breakups,
> compared to examinations further removed in time. The T of men who
> married during the decade fell as they made the transition from
> bachelor to husband, and T remained low among stably married men. Thus,
> T is highly responsive to changes in marital status, falling with
> marriage and rising with divorce.
Rather than a response to marriage per se, T seems responsive to
situations of stablility and security.
> Normal marriages are secure and supportive, more free from stress than
> single life, consistent with the relatively low cortisol found in
> married Air Force veterans. Single men are more likely than married men
> to face confrontations and challenges and, lacking the social support
> of a spouse, they are more likely to face situations where they must
> watch out for themselves, acting defensively and adopting protective
It makes sense that given a normal distribution, some men will have
higher T levels than the norm as a basic state. It also seems likely
that environmental conditions will have a huge bearing on the
subsequent rise and fall of these levels, over and above the basal
level. But the models suggested need to take into account the
individual differences in upbringing and socialisation. Perhaps those
men with high levels of T, from a less fortunate background, are less
likely to have their antisocial tendencies checked, than those with
similarly high T from a more supportive background. The high levels of
delinquency, poor achievement and criminal behaviour associated with
higher T levels need to be seen in their sociological context.
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