According to life history theory, sociosexual orientations in adulthood should be affected by an individual's early childhood environment. Highly predictable (stable) environments should increase the potential fitness benefits of long-term (slow) mating strategies as well as the potential costs of short-term (fast) mating strategies. Experiencing a more predictable childhood environment, therefore, should lead individuals to enact a slower life history strategy characterized by more restricted sociosexual behaviors. We tested this hypothesis in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (MLSRA), an ongoing longitudinal study that has followed individuals from before they were born into adulthood. Indicators of sociosexuality in early adulthood were assessed by trained coders based on interviews conducted with participants about their current relationship, their relationship history, and their future relationship aspirations when they were 23 years old. The findings revealed that having experienced more predictable environments during the first 4 years of life (indexed by less frequent changes in parents' employment status, cohabitation status, and residence) prospectively predicted more restricted sociosexuality at age 23, over and above current levels of predictability (that also uniquely predicted restricted sociosexuality at age 23). This early life predictability effect was partially mediated by greater early maternal support and being securely attached at age 19. Viewed together, these findings suggest that greater predictability early in life may be partially conveyed to children through more supportive parenting, which results in secure attachment in adolescence, which in turn predicts more restricted sociosexuality in early adulthood.
- Early life stress
- Life history theory