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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1994 Jun;66(6):1074-80.

Mate selection preferences: gender differences examined in a national sample.

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Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University, Normal 61790-4660.


Social psychologists have devoted considerable theoretical and empirical attention to studying gender differences in traits desired in a mate. Most of the studies on mate preferences, however, have been conducted with small, nonrepresentative samples. In this study, we analyzed data collected from single adults in a national probability sample, the National Survey of Families and Households. Respondents were asked to consider 12 possible assets or liabilities in a marriage partner and to indicate their willingness to marry someone possessing each of these traits. These data extended previous research by comparing men's and women's mate preferences in a heterogeneous sample of the national population and by comparing gender differences in different sociodemographic groups. The gender differences found in this study were consistent with those secured in previous research (e.g., youth and physical attractiveness were found to be more important for men than for women; earning potential was found to be less important for men than for women) and were quite consistent across age groups and races. However, the various sociodemographic groups differed slightly in the magnitude of gender differences for some of the mate preferences.

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