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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 26;8(6):e66353. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066353. Print 2013.

The Long-Term Effects of Stress on Partner Weight Characteristics.

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Department of Health Policy and Management, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.



Recent experimental evidence suggests that stressed males find heavier women more attractive than non-stressed males. The aim of this study is to examine whether these results also appear in actual mating patterns of adults from a national sample.


Regression analysis linking partner weight measures to own measures of childhood stress, as measured by mistreatment. Cross-sectional data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Romantic Partners Sample is used to measure partner weight, childhood stressful events, and socio-demographic characteristics. Childhood experiences of adult mistreatment are retrospectively collected.


Men who experienced childhood mistreatment are more likely to have obese female partners during young adulthood. The results are strongest for interactions with social services, adult neglect and physical abuse. We also present novel evidence of the opposite association in similarly stressed women whose male partners are more likely to be thin.


These results suggest that preferences for partner characteristics are sensitive to histories of stress and that previously hypothesized patterns occur outside the experimental setting.

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