Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Elizabeth Hampson


Life history theories (LHTs) of attachment address how attachments to caregivers in infancy/childhood and to romantic partners in adulthood are used to negotiate mating and reproductive choices. Greater insecure-avoidant attachment has been suggested to be associated with the adoption of a low-investment, short-term reproductive strategy. The role of sex hormones, including the androgen testosterone (T), in the development of attachment-related reproductive strategies has been speculated in some LHTs. This research tested an integrated-LHT model of early environment, attachment, and reproductive strategies in men, using structural equation modeling. Androgen-related effects were hypothesized to occur prenatally and/or in adulthood, consistent with various LHTs of attachment. A sample of 195 young men (M = 21.06 years) from the University of Western Ontario completed self-report paper-and-pencil questionnaires assessing their romantic attachment style, retrospective attachment to caregivers in childhood, sexual variables (e.g., sociosexuality, age at first intercourse), and personality variables such as aggression, impulsivity, and risk-taking. Testosterone was measured in saliva, while an indirect estimate of prenatal T was derived from the 2D:4D finger length ratio. Degree of androgen receptor (AR) sensitivity, as indexed by the CAG repeat polymorphism in the AR gene, was also obtained. Results showed that adult romantic attachment style (avoidant vs. anxious) mediated the relationship between childhood attachment insecurity and men’s sexual reproductive strategy. Greater avoidance predicted a more opportunistic sexual strategy and greater anxiety predicted lower levels of the same strategy. Degree of childhood attachment insecurity, as retrospectively reported, mediated the relationship between quality of early family structure and engagement in non-sexual evocative behaviours believed to be associated with a more opportunistic reproductive strategy (non-sexual reproductive strategy). Adult T was an independent positive predictor of avoidant attachment, and of the non-sexual reproductive strategy, while weaker AR responsivity predicted higher levels of romantic attachment anxiety. Furthermore, romantic attachment configurations were found to mediate the relationship between androgenic variables and sexual behaviour. These findings highlight the figural role of attachment in life history based models of mating strategies, and provide some of the first empirical support for the hypothesis that romantic attachment in men is, in part, sex-hormonally-based.