Why we’re attracted to our…parents?


So a male mate of ours was merrily browsing the profile photos of our gorgeous Lovestruck ladez. ‘You so always go for the same type.’ said we. He admitted this was true; brunette, blue-eyed, straight nose, but he didn’t know why these ladies always caught his eye.

Then, one day,  when visiting his parents at the weekend, it hit him. Boom. Sitting in a photo-frame grinning back at him was the brunette, blue-eyed-straight-nosed girl of his dreams.

Only it was his mum. Thirty years ago. It was awkward, uncomfortable, but there it was. Basically, he fancied women that looked like his mum. Is this natural? Yes it seems.

Dr Justin Lehmiller for the  IARR (International Association Relationship Research) explains:

‘Research and studies within the animal kingdom have shown that early care giving experiences shape our later patterns of sexual attraction. This certainly isn’t unique to animals as something similar happens in humans too.’

It sounds creepy, and our mate is still a little creeped out, but humans have a tendency to select partners who physically resemble their childhood caretakers, often their Ma or Pa. The theory is that, ‘as children, humans experience an imprinting-like process in which the physical traits of one’s opposite-parent form a mental template that is later used for selecting mates in adulthood.

Here’s a look at some of evidence which support his theory:

  • A 2002 study found that men tended to select wives who physically resembled their mothers.
  • A 2003 study found that the hair and eye color of people’s opposite sex parents very often had the same hair and eye color of their romantic partners.
  • A 2012 study discovered the height of people’s opposite sex parents was associated with the similar height of their romantic partners.
  • A 2013 study found that those born to older parents (mother and/or father) reported greater attraction to older partners as adults.
  • A 2010 study found – women selected romantic partners who had similar amounts of body hair to their fathers.
  • A 2004 study found that women who had been adopted as children had a tendency to select husbands who physically resembled their adoptive fathers.

Interestingly, the last two studies both found that the nature of the relationship people had with their parents mattered. Specifically, people who had more positive relationships with their parents were the most likely to select partners/spouses who looked like their parents.

Dr Justin adds, ‘There are a few things to keep in mind here. First, we cannot say for sure whether the above results are truly a result of ‘sexual imprinting’. Another possibility is that this is simply a byproduct of exposure (i.e., repeated exposure to a given stimulus, such as persons of older age, increases familiarity and liking for that stimulus). Yet another explanation is that we are drawn to partners who physically resemble us—and because we tend to resemble our parents, we also end up with a preference for people who look like our parents.’

This makes our mate feel a little better. He’s hugging his mum again, but he still can’t look his dad in the eye…

Are you attracted to people that look a little like your parents? Tell us @lovestruck

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