Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Relationship Dissolution

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2923-1



The process of ending a relationship by the voluntary action of at least one partner


Most ancestral mammalian species didn’t form long-term male-female pair bonds. Males mated with estrous females, and when the female went out of estrus, the relationship ended. Dissolution only became an issue when the human species came into existence, at which time males and females began living together in long-term relationships. During the hunting and gathering era, the dissolution of these relationships was apparently simple and without serious consequences, either for the couple or their offspring. However, following the development of agriculture, dissolution became more problematic. Children needed paternal investment from a biological father, accumulated wealth made inheritance possible and paternity important, and rising religions condemned adultery and divorce.

Currently, in many societies, relationship dissolution is...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Axinn, W. G., & Thornton, A. (1992). The relationship between cohabitation and divorce: Selectivity or causal influence? Demography, 29, 357–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ayoub, C. C., Deutsch, R. M., & Maraganore, A. (1999). Emotional distress in children of high-conflict divorce. Family Court Review, 37, 297–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balikci, A. (1970). The Netsilik Eskimo. Garden City: Natural History Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beach, F. A. (1976). Cross-species comparisons and the human heritage. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5, 469–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bermant, G. (1976). Sexual behavior: Hard times with the Coolidge effect. In M. H. Siegel & H. P. Zeigler (Eds.), Psychological research: The inside story. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  6. Betzig, L. (1989). Causes of conjugal dissolution: A cross-cultural study. Current Anthropology, 30, 654–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Critchlow, D. T. (Ed.). (1996). The politics of abortion and birth control in historical perspective. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  8. De Waal, F. (1989). Chimpanzee politics: Power and sex among apes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Dewsbury, D. A. (1981). Effects of novelty on copulatory behavior: The Coolidge effect and related phenomena. Psychological Bulletin, 89(3), 464–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Draper, P., & Harpending, H. (1982). Father absence and reproductive strategy: An evolutionary perspective. Journal of Anthropological Research, 38, 255–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dunbar, R. I. M. (1995). The mating system of callitrichid primates: Conditions for the coevolution of pair bonding and twinning. Animal Behaviour, 50, 1057–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gray, J. (1971). The psychology of fear and stress. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  13. Greiling, H., & Buss, D. M. (1999). Women’s sexual strategies: The hidden dimension of extrapair mating. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 929–963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1961). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  15. Kummer, H. (1968). Two variations in the social organization of baboons. In P. Jay (Ed.), Primates: Studies in adaptation and variability (pp. 293–312). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  16. Lancaster, J. B. (1975). Primate behavior and the emergence of human culture. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.Google Scholar
  17. Langergraber, K. E., et al. (2013). Male–female socio-spatial relationships and reproduction in wild chimpanzees. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67, 861–873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lee, R. B. (1979). The !Kung San: Men, women and work in a foraging society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Lee, R. B., & Devore, I. (Eds.). (1976). Kalahari hunter-gatherers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Marcen, M. (2015). Divorce and the birth control pill in the U.S. 1950–85. Feminist Economics, 21, 151–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Marston, A. (1997). Planning for love: The politics of prenuptial agreements. Stanford Law Review, 49, 887–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. Boston: Little Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  23. Milligan, J. (2005). A house of her own. Mortgage Banking, 65, 60+.Google Scholar
  24. Morton, H., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2015). Role of partner novelty in sexual functioning: A review. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 41, 593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nakonezny, P. A., Shull, R. D., & Rodgers, J. L. (1995). The effect of no-fault divorce law on the divorce rate across the 50 states and its relation to income, education, and religiosity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 57, 477–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Plaud, J. J., & Gaither, G. A. (1997). A clinical investigation of the possible effects of long-term habituation of sexual arousal in assisted covert sensitization. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 28, 281–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schmitt, D. P., Shackelford, T. K., Duntley, J., Tooke, W., & Buss, D. M. (2001). The desire for sexual variety as a tool for understanding basic human mating strategies. Personal Relationships, 8, 425–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shostak, M. (1981). Nisa: The life and words of a !Kung woman. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Stokes, C. E., & Ellison, C. G. (2010). Religion and attitudes toward divorce laws among U.S. adults. Journal of Family Issues, 31(10), 1279–1304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Tonkinson, R. (1978). The Mardudjara aborigines: Living the dream in Australia’s desert. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.Google Scholar
  32. Turnbull, C. M. (1961). The Forest people. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  33. Van Lawick-Goodall, J. (1971). In the shadow of man. New York: Dell.Google Scholar
  34. Wilson, G. D. (1982). The Coolidge effect. New York: William Morrow and Company.Google Scholar
  35. Wolman, R., & Taylor, K. (1991). Psychological effects of custody disputes on children. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 9, 377–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Zagorsky, J. A. (2005). Marriage and divorce’s impact on wealth. Journal of Sociology, 41, 406–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ShutesburyUSA
  2. 2.CambridgeUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kevin Bennett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyPennsylvania State University, BeaverMonacaUSA