Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Mate Selection: Gender and Generational Differences

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Mate Selection: Gender and Generational Differences

Article excerpt

Many researchers agree that "Campus Values in Mate Selection" is one of the longest replicated single studies in the field of family and marriage psychology (Shackelford, Schmitt, & Buss, 2005). For over a half century researchers have examined the eighteen characteristics of this study that men and women desire in a future mate. This previous research has shown both differences and similarities between men and women in the ranking of desirable characteristics in mate selection (Amador, Charles, Tait, & Helm, 2005; Buss, Shackelford, Kirkpatrick, & Larsen, 2001; Hill, 1945; Hoyt & Hudson, 1981; Hudson & Henze, 1969; McGinnis, 1958). For example, Prakash (2009) notes characteristics such as mutual love and attraction, faithfulness, and a pleasing nature as elements that males and females agree upon. Another study also found that both men and women place a premium on the characteristic of a "pleasing disposition," and noted that "emotional stability" is also important to both sexes (Shackelford, et. al., 2005).

Males place more value on domestic skills and females on good financial prospects. In fact, it appears that across several decades of assessments, methodologies, and cultures, men more than women value physical attractiveness in a mate, whereas women more than men value good financial prospects in a long-term mate (Buss, et al., 2001; Hatfield & Sprecher, 1995; Johannesen-Schmidt & Eagly, 2002; Shackelford, et al., 2005). Researchers propose that an individual's decisions in mate selection are generally based on religion, social class, education, and family background (Hatfield & Sprecher, 1995; Prakash, 2009; Shackelford, et. al., 2005). Shackelford and colleagues (2005) argued that there are universal dimensions to mate selection. They proposed four dimensions identified as love verses status/resources, dependable/stable verses good looks/health, education/intelligence versus desire for home/children, and sociality versus similar religion.

Social role theorists argue that gender differences in people's preferences in desired mate characteristics are due to the tendency of men and women to take on different social roles. Social-role theory also suggests that men and women take into consideration how certain characteristics will affect marital, familial, and occupational roles that encompass different responsibilities and obligations (Johannesen-Schmidt & Eagly, 2002). Gender role beliefs are rooted in a society's division of labor whereby people observe men and women engaging in different types of activities. Eagley and Wood (1999) argued that the idea that the division of responsibilities a society places on the sexes (e.g., males as providers and women as homemakers) is a major determinant of the criteria that people look for in a potential mate; this could be why men place more emphasis on younger women and domestic skills and women place more emphasis than men on older age and earning potential. Furthermore, they argue that there is a decrease in gender differences in mate selection due to an increase in gender equality. Researchers posit that changes in desired mate characteristics are largely due to change in human values dealing with "the widespread of birth control, influx of women into the workplace, and the large focus placed on physical beauty through the media" (Buss, et al., 2001, pg. 491) as well as the tendency of men and women to take up different social roles in society as society increases in gender equality (Johannesen-Schmidt & Eagly, 2002).

Scott (1991) looked at socio-demographic determinants and noted two complementary theories of mate selection preferences, exchange theory and marriage market theories. Exchange theory looks at what people are willing to exchange, (e.g. economic resources for sexual services), while marriage market theories look at the quantity and quality mates available and how individuals choose within that market. …

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