Evolutionary Psychological Science

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 394–404 | Cite as

The Relative Importance of Physical Attractiveness and Personality Characteristics to the Mate Choices of Women and Their Fathers

  • Madeleine A. FugèreEmail author
  • Stephanie Madden
  • Alita J. Cousins
Research Article


Prior research assessing mate preferences among women and their parents reveals the potential for conflict within families; daughters value characteristics indicating genetic quality, such as physical attractiveness, more strongly than their parents do. However, prior research also suggests the potential for agreement within families; both daughters and their parents report valuing other mate characteristics much more strongly than physical attractiveness (e.g., mutual affection, intelligence, etc.). We assessed mate preferences among 86 daughter-father pairs using an experimental design varying target men’s physical attractiveness and personality characteristics. We tested five hypotheses investigating the relative importance of physical attractiveness and personality traits to women and their fathers as well as the potential for mate choice conflict between women and their fathers. Both women and their fathers were strongly influenced by the physical attractiveness of the target men and rated more attractive target men as more desirable partners for themselves or for their daughters. Reinforcing the importance of physical attractiveness, men with the most desirable personality profiles were rated more favorably than their counterparts only when they were moderately attractive or more attractive; unattractive men were never rated as more desirable partners for daughters, regardless of their personality profiles. However, physical attractiveness was more strongly related to women’s own dating preferences whereas personality favorability was more strongly related to fathers’ preferences for their daughters. Furthermore, when women and their fathers disagreed about the best mate, women chose the more attractive man while fathers chose the man with the more desirable personality traits. The importance of physical attractiveness to women’s mate choices may lead to conflict with their fathers.


Parent-offspring conflict Physical attractiveness Personality traits Mate choice 


Funding Information

This research was supported by a grant from the Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This experiment was approved by the Committee on Using Human Subjects in Research. The researchers informed participants that they were studying similarities and differences in mate preferences among women and their parents. Informed consent was obtained from women and their fathers prior to their participation (consent from a parent was obtained for daughters under 18 as well).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madeleine A. Fugère
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stephanie Madden
    • 1
  • Alita J. Cousins
    • 1
  1. 1.Eastern Connecticut State UniversityWillimanticUSA

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