Featured News The mating game

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Thu, 2 Jun 2022

The mating game

Image: Kelli McClintock

A James Cook University study has found men who want to be fathers are more attractive to women – but with a catch.

Dr Ryan Anderson led the study, which presented more than 260 heterosexual women under 40-years-old with a short, fictional bio of potential mates, including their intentions toward fatherhood.

He said as in many other species, female humans are more discriminating in choosing mates than males.

“For women, the process of mate selection can be time-intensive and fraught with costs and dangers, and there is an established difference in how the sexes choose partners.

“Research indicates men highly prize readily observable characteristics, such as physical beauty in a female partner, while women are far more concerned with a man’s socioeconomic status, (SES), parental ability and capacity for the acquisition of resources,” said Dr Anderson.

He said other studies had showed SES and ambitiousness (but not character, intelligence, humour or personality) are extremely important to women, but not men.

“But these qualities, while indirectly assessing a man’s capacity to provide, don’t tell us anything about his willingness to provide – whether he actually wants to be a father or not. That’s what we wanted to measure, along with its impact on attractiveness,” said Dr Anderson.

He said the new research showed a man’s desirability as a long term mate was enhanced if he wished to become a father.

But he said the researchers had also discovered something unexpected.

“Men with former partners who spoke positively about them were more desirable as a long-term partner if they did not want children than if they did. It may be that men with too many positive characteristics seem to be unrealistic goals for some women and are therefore evaluated poorly.

“This seemingly paradoxical finding needs further enquiry,” said Dr Anderson.


Dr Ryan Anderson
E: ryan.anderson1@monash.edu