April 23, 2012
Women Drive Romance, Cellphone Records Prove It
A new study finds what most men have known for a long time: Social structure and romance are largely driven by women, according to various media reports.
Robin Dunbar, University of Oxford anthropologist and author of the study analyzed 1.95 billion cell phone calls and 489 text messages to conduct his research. He and his team worked with a single cellular provider in undisclosed European country and kept all location data anonymous in order to protect the identities of the cell phone users.
To limit the amount of data they used, Dunbar and team studied only the top 3 friendships of each male and female cell phone user. Dunbar´s study was published on April 19 by Nature Scientific Reports.
According to his research, romantic relationships between men and women are most important to those in their 20s and 30s. Women in particular were more likely to call their partner more frequently than men. Women call their spouses more often than any other person until their daughters are old enough to have children. Men, on the other hand, call their spouses most often during the first 7 years of marriage, then move their attention to other friendships.
Things begin to change at age 50, however. Researchers noticed women call other women a generation younger than themselves, presumably their daughters, more often then they call their husbands. Men, on the other hand, continue to seek out companionship relationships.
The researchers believe this strong preference in women towards men and then their daughters or a daughter-like figure ultimately affects men. The study shows women make romantic relationships a top priority in their early years, a move men learn to reciprocate over time. This relationship remains a priority throughout her childbearing years, then her focus moves onto the next generation of child bearers.
“Generally, we have probably underestimated how important these family support networks are,” Dunbar told Scientific American via Huffington Post.
“What seems to happen is that women push the ℠old man´ out to become their second best friend, and he gets called much less often and all her attention is focused on her daughters just at the point at which you are likely to see grandchildren arriving,” he told BBC News.
According to Dunbar, the point of this study was to discover how intimate relationships develop over a lifetime.
The data also reveals some well-known differences in the way men and women communicate with members of the same sex.
According to the phone records, women are more likely to have “intense” one-on-one relationships with other women, a relationship which is shaped through frequent communication. In fact, Dunbar even suggests the digital and modern age of communication, with its quick bursts of texts and instant messages, is tailor-made for female communication.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to have many friendships with an equal number of men and women after the romantic years have passed.
In conclusion, Prof. Dunbar says the data suggests that, “at root the important relationships are those between women and not those between men”.
“Men´s relationships are too casual. They often function at a high level in a political sense, of course; but at the end of the day, the structure of society is driven by women, which is exactly what we see in primates,” he explained to BBC's Pallab Ghosh.