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Mate Selection

Factors In The Relationship

Mate selection is a two-way street, involving more than the preferences of a single individual. A second wave of mate selection theories emphasized processes of dyadic exchange of costs and benefits. The most prevalent models emphasize social exchange: I seek a mate who brings a mix of assets and liabilities with comparable value to my own personal portfolio (e.g., Hatfield et al. 1985). Researchers focusing on reciprocal exchange have emphasized naturalistic studies of mate choice in relationships as they unfold over time (e.g., Cate, Huston, and Nesselroade 1986). Some of these approaches have suggested that, over the course of time, relationships go through different stages or phases. Bernard Murstein's (1970) filter theory, for example, suggested that partners are first selected based on obvious stimulus characteristics, such as attractiveness, and are then passed through finer filters based on similar values and role compatibility.

The earliest dyadic exchange models focused on complementarity (Winch 1955). So, for example, it was expected that socially dominant partners will seek socially submissive others for relationships. Although support for personality complementarity was not abundant, there is some degree of cross-sex complementarity in preferred traits. For example, females emphasize social dominance in their partners more than males do (Sadalla, Kenrick, and Vershure 1987). This is not a simple preference for complementarity, however, because dominant females do not seek out submissive males.

Support for general exchange theories, on the other hand, has been clearer. For example, there is evidence that physically attractive women tend to marry men of higher status, and that socially successful men tend to marry more attractive women (Taylor and Glenn 1976). There is also evidence that people of both sexes are attracted to others with personal characteristics that make them easy to get along with in long-term relationships ( Jensen-Campbell, Graziano, and West 1995; Green and Kenrick 1994).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsMate Selection - Factors Within The Individual, Factors In The Relationship, Sociocultural And Historical Factors, Evolutionary Factors