Behavior Genetics

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 127-157

First online:

Assortative mating, or who marries whom?

  • Steven G. VandenbergAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Colorado

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The first section reviews how much and what kind of assortative mating occurs. It considers the genetic consequences of any departure from random mating, then discusses the effects of consanguinity or inbreeding on the offspring. Suffice it to say here that these effects are generally unfavorable, so that one may say that forgenetic reasons a high similarity between spouses is not favored. The next section discusses the social consequences of marital choice in terms of theories and research related to mate selection and marital adjustment. At this point, we may summarize two opposing views of what makes for a good marriage: (1) psychological similarity and (2) complementariness of needs of husband and wife. We will see that most of the evidence tends to support the first view, so we can say that for social reasons similarity between spouses is favored. Another topic touched on is whether marriage leads to an increase in similarity over time, or, in genetic terms, to a partial convergence of phenotypes, which could lead to an overestimation of the degree of genotypic similarity. Next, the theory is discussed that homogamy for socioeconomic status is responsible for the observed correlations between abilities and between beauty and brains. The final section summarizes some research on factors influencing the personal preferences for personality and physical type which govern the selection of potential mates.