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Title:Adult mate preferences are not more closely associated with the opposite-sex parent than the same-sex parent: examinations focusing on biracial individuals and parental ethnicity
Author(s):Heffernan, Marie Elizabeth
Director of Research:Fraley, R. Chris
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Fraley, R. Chris
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Roberts, Brent W.; Cohen, Dov; Derringer, Jaime; Ogolsky, Brian
Department / Program:Psychology
Discipline:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):mate preferences
biracial research
Abstract:The current research examines three perspectives on why people may prefer romantic partners who resemble their parents. The psychoanalytic perspective suggests that the opposite-sex parent will play a larger role than the same-sex parent in shaping adult mate preferences (Freud, 1905; 1927). Learning-based theories such as mere exposure and sexual imprinting, on the other hand, do not necessarily predict that the opposite-sex parent will play a larger role in shaping mate preferences (e.g., Lorenz, 1937; 1970). A final perspective, the cafeteria model, suggests that people’s preferences for mates are largely random and unpredictable (Lykken & Tellegen, 1993). Two studies of biracial individuals examined the influence of parental ethnicity on mate preferences to evaluate these three perspectives. Study 1 focused on romantic pairing or mate selection and Study 2 focused on romantic attraction. In Study 1 (N = 1,026), women were slightly more likely than men to be involved with a romantic partner who matched their father’s ethnicity. Likewise, men were slightly more likely than women to be involved with a romantic partner who matched their mother’s ethnicity. However, these results were not robust to different ways of analyzing the data. For instance, when women and men were examined separately they were no more likely to be involved with a romantic partner who matched their opposite-sex parent’s ethnicity than their same-sex parent’s ethnicity. Additionally, both women and men were more likely to be involved with a romantic partner who matched at least one of their parents’ ethnicities than a partner who was of a non-parental ethnicity. In Study 2 (N = 517), women and men were more attracted to faces of their mother’s ethnicity and faces of their father’s ethnicity. In other words, biracial individuals preferred others who resembled the ethnicity of either of their parents. The preference for parent ethnicity was not stronger for the opposite-sex parent than the same-sex parent. Instead, compared with men, women showed an even greater preference for faces that matched their parents’ ethnicities, but men still preferred parent-matching faces over faces of other ethnicities. Rather than suggesting that mate preferences are primarily based on the opposite-sex parent or that they are largely random and unpredictable, the pattern of results from the current research supports the perspective that mate preferences are based on both parents.
Issue Date:2015-04-15
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/78604
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Marie E. Heffernan
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015


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