Sex differences in vulnerability and maladjustment as a function of parental investment: an evolutionary approach.
Sex differences in aspects of mental health are examined as a function of uneven parental investment in children. Relative vulnerability is a new construct mediating the influence of parental investment on mental health. Couples (129) in three stages of the family life cycle are measured by scales for parental investment, relative vulnerability, anxiety, depression, and ten psychosomatic syndromes. Results show a path of positive correlations from the parent's sex to level of parental investment, to level of relative vulnerability, and to levels of anxiety and depression. Women invest more than men, and hence they are more vulnerable, anxious, and depressed. They reach the summit of their vulnerability while they have three young children. Relative vulnerability was found to have positive effects along with the negative ones and to affect women in different ways than it does men. Results are interpreted in terms of different parental strategies selected by evolution for each sex.
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