Toward a Broader Conceptualization of Jealousy in Close Relationships

Jennifer L. Bevan
Wendy Samter

Document Type Article

Published in Communication Studies, volume 55 issue 1, 2004. Bryant users may access this article here.


The study of jealousy is typically restricted to the examination of a third-party threat to one's romantic relationship. In contrast to this rather narrow view, two studies were undertaken to examine the possibility (a) that individuals experience jealousy over a variety of issues, and (b) that jealousy- of any type-occurs and is expressed in non-romantic relationships such as cross-sex friendship. The goal of Study I was to assess the realism of hypothetical situations representing six different types of jealousy suggested within the literature. These included: friend jealousy, arising from an individual's relationships with friends; family jealousy, arising from a partner's relationships with family members; activity jealousy, occurring when a partner is involved in activities such as school, work, or hobbies; power jealousy, arising from influence over a partner being lost to others; intimacy jealousy, arising when one feels that more advice is sought from or disclosed to others; and romantic jealousy, involving a (perceived) third-party threat to a relationship's exclusive nature. In Study II, participants were presented with the finalized versions of these jealousy-evoking scenarios and asked to imagine their cross-sex friends engaging in such behavior. Respondents then rated the degree of jealousy-related emotions they would experience in response to each situation and reported how they would express such jealousy. Results indicated that individuals' emotional reactions and response modes differed according to the type of jealousy encountered. In particular, participants reported the most intense reactions to intimacy jealousy and felt that it was best dealt with by direct modes of communication. Implications of these findings for the study of jealousy in close relationships are discussed.