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Conflicting Tastes: Conflicts Between Female Family Members in Choice of Romantic Partners

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Abstract

Shared genes give relatives shared interests in each other’s evolutionary success, yet differences in patterns of relatedness can create conflicts. In a monogamous relationship, parents are equally related to all their children and also equally related to all their grandchildren. However, their children are more closely related to their own children and take greater interest in them than in their nieces and nephews. Various types of parent-offspring conflict can be explained in terms of such patterns of genetic relatedness. The authors extend this principle to mother-daughter conflict over choice of the daughter’s partner and to competition between sisters by considering how parental influence causes increased competition among same-sex siblings. The authors conclude that females wish family members to choose partners with traits that may provide more direct benefits and potentially improve their fitness, that individuals choose sexier partners for themselves, and that parental influence may theoretically drive sister competition.

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... In order to do so, a different method is required where parents would be asked to rate traits in a mate for themselves and in a mate for their children . Last but not least, our study was focused on parents-children disagreement over mate choice; yet, evolutionary theorizing, supported by empirical evidence, suggests that such disagreement exists also between individuals and their siblings (Biegler & Kennair, 2016;Kennair & Biegler, 2015). This aspect of intrafamily disagreement was not examined here, and future research needs to investigate it. ...
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Parents and their children are genetically related but not genetically identical, a fact that leads to conflict between the two. One such domain of conflict is mate choice, where in-law and mate preferences diverge. The current research examined this divergence in preferences in the Chinese culture and how it varied across cultural contexts. More specifically, we have employed an online sample of 356 Chinese families, and we asked parents to rate the importance of several traits in a prospective spouse for their children and their children to rate the importance of the same traits in a prospective spouse for themselves. Comparisons of parents’ and children’s answers indicated a disagreement in several domains including good looks and family oriented. It was also found that there was more disagreement between parents and sons than between parents and daughters. Finally, the responses of Chinese parents and their children in the current study were compared with the responses of Greek Cypriot parents and their children from a previous study. It was found that, across several domains, there was more disagreement between parents and sons in the Chinese sample, while for the family oriented and the chastity, there was more parents–sons and parents–daughters disagreement in the Chinese sample. The implications of these findings were further examined.
... Mating involves six parties, namely, men, women, men's parents, men's siblings and other relatives, women's parents, and women's siblings and other relatives (Biegler & Kennair, 2016;Blood, 1972;Coonz, 2006;Kennair & Biegler, 2015). Each party has considerable fitness interests in this game that depend on the traits of the other parties. ...
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Across different times and cultures, parents play an important role in influencing their children's mating decisions. When they do so, they aim to forge useful alliances with other parents which raises the question of what parents look for in the latter. The current research aims to address this question. In particular, we employed an online sample of 925 Chinese parents who were asked to rate the desirability of 88 traits in the parents of prospective mates for their children. Principal components analysis classified these traits in eight factors for the mothers and 10 factors of interest for the fathers of their children's mates. We also found that parents had a well-defined hierarchy of preferences, fathers, and mothers were in agreement in what they looked for in a prospective in-law, but their preferences were contingent to the sex of the in-law.
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Conflicts among relatives may be explained by reference to patterns of genetic relatedness. We suggest that the same conflicts over partner choice that have previously been found between female parents and offspring may also occur between sisters. This provides a test of whether the previous intergenerational effects were mainly due to cohort/intergenerational differences or whether the genetic conflict theory is the better explanation of the findings. Two hundred seventy-nine women who had sisters rated the relevance of 133 traits for their own and their sister’s ideal male long-term partner. Although sisters agree on the importance of the majority of traits, there are also systematic and predictable differences. Women consider traits indicating genetic fitness to be more important for their own ideal partners than for their sister’s ideal partner. Similarly traits that might provide benefits to other, extended family members are prioritized for their sister’s ideal partner. This replicates the findings from an earlier mother–daughter comparison.
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There has been an explosion of survey-based and experimental work pertaining to women's intrasexual competition for mates. Rather than extensively review this growing and vast body of literature, the goal of this paper is instead to call for ethological studies on this topic. I propose that, in general, non-ethological studies should cause us to question the reliability of findings, how frequently, and in what contexts competitive strategies are used. After a condensed overview of the evolutionary theory of female intrasexual competition, the paper is organized around three central problems that are faced by researchers who want to use an ethological approach. First, I will briefly review how female intrasexual competition involves multiple strategies that are often indirect or covert. Second, I will discuss how female intrasexual competition is dynamic, and changes depending on particular variables, such as hormonal status and audience. Third, I will argue that the context for examining competition matters, such that the reach of competitive views and attitudes is far wider than previously considered. I support this third point by presenting the results of a preliminary study where women appeared to engage in competition after merely being primed to think about potential threats to their romantic relationships.
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