Your Parents Might Care More About Your Partner's Looks Than They Admit

Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Washington Post, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
Your Parents Might Care About Your Partner's Looks More Than They Admit

Image by GUILLE FAINGOLD / Stocksy

If you're bringing home a significant other for the holidays for the first time, you might think the most important thing that your parents will care about will be how well your partner treats you and how well they get along with the family. Wrong.

According to new research, parents apparently care a lot more about your partner's looks than they might admit.

The new study, published in the Evolutionary Psychological Science journal, had 86 fathers and their daughters rate a bunch of men according to how desirable of a partner he'd make for the daughter. The men's profiles included photos and a set of personality descriptors indicating their levels of positive traits like trustworthiness, intelligence, respect, and ambition. The men's appearances had previously been assessed by two other samples of women and then categorized into three groups: unattractive, moderately attractive, and very attractive. (But our current fathers and daughters weren't aware of these rankings.) 

The fathers did prefer men with better personalities for their daughters; however, the men had to meet a minimum level of attractiveness for fathers to approve of them as suitable partners. Fathers did not rate unattractive men as better partners for their daughters than moderately attractive or highly attractive men, even when the unattractive men had the best set of personality traits. 

Past research has found parents care much more about personality than appearance when it comes to approving of a child's significant other. This study did find the daughters cared a lot more about physical attractiveness than their fathers, but it also found that having at least a decent-looking face was a barrier to approval. (The researchers previously proved a similar point about moms, by the way.) 

"The physical attractiveness of partners might be more important to both offspring and parents than they consciously realize," Fugère told PsyPost. "Our experimental evidence suggests that although both daughters and fathers believe that men's personality characteristics are more important than their physical attractiveness, when we choose between potential partners, physical attractiveness plays a larger role than personality characteristics."

So parents aren't exactly the rational source of relationship advice you might think they are. They might say they know best and are thinking more clearly than you are about whether your partner is a good match for you. But alas, it seems Mom and Dad are just as susceptible to a pretty face as the rest of us.

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