Research by Dr Manuela Thomae, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Winchester, and Professor Diane Houston at the University of Kent, found that traditional gender stereotypes have an impact on our romantic partner choices and that a large proportion of women prefer a non-traditional, over a traditional, partner.
These findings challenge existing research showing that women tend to prefer men who conform to the more traditional role of provider, and men prefer attractive women who are good home keepers.
“Traditional gender ideologies tend to assume that women need protecting and cherishing, and fulfill their roles through nurturing, homemaking and parental activities, while men are the breadwinners, needing female adoration and support at home,” explained Dr Thomae.
“Our study provided a sample of women with either a vignette of a man who plans on taking a career break in order to fully engage with his children, family and home life, or a man who plans to have a high-flying, well-paid career to financially support his family. Our findings demonstrated that the majority of women were more interested in the former type of man. However, women who subscribed to traditional gender ideologies, especially benevolence towards men, tended to prefer the latter type of man.”
In the male sample, Dr Thomae and Professor Houston found that men didn’t show a clear preference towards home-orientated or career-orientated women, however men with more traditional gender ideologies preferred their romantic partner to be a woman who emphasised homemaking over career aspirations.
The paper is one of the first to look into ideologies about both male and female gender roles and romantic partner preferences. Unlike previous studies who used undergraduate students, the research used participants in their late 20s and early 30s to increase the likelihood of participants understanding the challenges and demands of maintaining romantic relationships in everyday life.
“This cultural and ideological shift away from the more traditional gender roles could have implications on the gender composition of the labour force in the future, and the uptake of shared parental leave,” added Dr Thomae.