An important current debate concerns the originof gender differences in partner preferences. Thesedifferences have been explained both in terms ofevolutionary theory and in terms of social role theory. The present study determines the relativestrengths of both perspectives by investigating, apartfrom gender, the influence of three other importantfactors on partner preferences and for which the two approaches offer divergent hypotheses: age,political orientation and level of education of therespondent. About 95% of the participants were WhiteDutch citizens, the rest were Dutch with one or twoparents from a different ethnic background.Participants were requested to write down the mostimportant characteristics of a potential partner(open-ended format), followed by an instruction toindicate the importance of 39 pre-selected characteristics. Resultsshow that men and women have highly similar preferencesfor characteristics in a potential partner. In addition,it is demonstrated that on crucial characteristics from an evolutionary perspective (i.e.,physical attractiveness and status) significantinteractions between age, political orientation, levelof education and/or gender of the respondents emerge.Most results offer support for a social role theoryof human mate selection. It is concluded that becausegender on its own merely explains a small proportion ofthe total variance in human mate selection, it is important to include other factors, not onlyin order to facilitate our understanding of the fullcomplexity of partner preferences, but also in order tomake theoretical progress in this area.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 30, 2004
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