High Hormone Levels in Women May Lead to Infidelity, Study Shows

Jan. 14, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Women with high levels of the sex hormone oestradiol may engage in opportunistic mating, according to a new study by psychology researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

Doctoral candidate Kristina Durante and Assistant Professor of Psychology Norm Li published their findings in the article "Oestradiol Level and Opportunistic Mating in Women" in the Jan. 13 issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biology Letters.

"The study offers further evidence that physiological mechanisms continue to play a major role in guiding women's sexual motivations and behavior," Durante said.

Durante and Li investigated the relationship between oestradiol, an ovarian hormone linked to fertility, and sexual motivation in a study of 52 female undergraduates not using contraception. Participants' ages ranged from 17 to 30 years old.

The researchers measured the participants' hormone levels at two points during each woman's ovulatory cycle and then asked them to rate their own physical attractiveness. Independent observers also rated the participants' physical attractiveness.

Participants also answered survey questions that measured their propensity to cheat on a partner.

The researchers found that a woman's oestradiol level was positively associated with self-perceived physical attractiveness. Women with a higher oestradiol level also reported a greater likelihood of flirting, kissing and having a serious affair (but not a one-night stand) with a new partner.

Oestradiol levels were negatively associated with a woman's satisfaction with her primary partner.

"Our findings show that highly fertile women are not easily satisfied by their long-term partners and are motivated to seek out more desirable partners," Durante explained. "However, that doesn't mean they're more likely to engage in casual sex. Instead, they adopt a strategy of serial monogamy."

Read the article online.

For more information, contact: Jennifer McAndrew; Kristina Durante, doctoral candidate, Department of Psychology, 972-743-7685; Norm Li, assistant professor of psychology.

8 Comments to "High Hormone Levels in Women May Lead to Infidelity, Study Shows"

1.  Charles George said on Jan. 15, 2009

That's an awfully small sample size and drawn from a narrow population subset. Are you planning a more extensive, true random population study?

2.  Roger E. Noether said on Jan. 16, 2009

Question: Is oestradiol an important component of oral contraceptives (the birth control pill)? If so, your study has significant implications for the way most people live their relationships. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

Roger Noether

3.  Brad Houston said on Jan. 16, 2009

Does the study indicate behavior of pre-menopausal women who seem to have high levels of hormones in general?

4.  Eliza Moore said on Jan. 19, 2009

Women who are having an affair and who have a primary partner would have reason to think that they are more attractive than otherwise. Couldn't the brain then feed the production of the hormone in a circular relationship arising from a mental state as well as from a hormonal phase? Pretty important.

The sexually "dangerous" 40-year-old woman would be an interesting component of a study of this type.

Finally, shouldn't this study be conducted in cooperation with or within a medical environment?

5.  Kerri W. said on Jan. 24, 2009

Just a thought: Many of the serial monogamists whom I have known tend to perceive themselves as "less" attractive. That's the whole reason why they do what they do. They want attention, acceptance, love, to fill an emotional void, etc., yet they have no clue as to what they should be looking for in a partner. Thus, they get involved with the wrong people consistently and feel desperate/hollow when single.

6.  Abiola.O said on Jan. 29, 2009

This is a serious study, and I agree with Kerri W. The behavioral pattern of women is largely more complex than men. I feel a larger and more representative sample should be considered alongside several other factors, such as the ones raised by Kerri.

7.  Priyanka said on Jan. 30, 2009

That's a very interesting finding for a layman. It seems to be a vicious circle. High hormones lead to infidelity and vice versa. So how do you come out of it? There certainly has to be a way out. You can't blame the hormones for infidelity and just not be responsible about it.

8.  Greg W. said on Feb. 3, 2009

How can you be sure that it is the hormone that leads to the infidelity. I agree with Eliza Moore. The mind, considering infidelity, might cause the increase in the oestradiol levels. Why did you assume the implication went from the hormone to the infidelity rather than the other way around? Did the data collected give you some inference into the matter?