Why parents prefer uglier husbands for their daughters
If mom and dad could pick your Prince Charming, he probably wouldn’t look anything like you’d hope. He’d be a scrawny, pimpled, hunchbacked dweeb.
But at least he’d have a modest income as a software engineer.
According to new research, parents prefer a son-in-law with minimal sex appeal. Given the choice between an ugly wealthy man and a handsome wealthy man, they’d want their daughter to pick the unattractive spouse.
This is in stark contrast to what parents want for their sons. When looking for a better half for their boys, parents don’t care how dirt-poor his wife is — as long as she looks good doing it.
At least, this is true in China, where parents play an active role in helping their children find a life partner, and where the study was conducted.
The researchers hypothesized that children would have drastically different priorities for their “ball and chain” than mom and dad would. To study those differences, the scientists went to a Chinese marriage market, public parks where parents of unmarried adults flock to trade information on their children like they’d trade mint-edition Pokémon cards.
At the marriage market, researchers surveyed nearly 600 parents and young people. They presented them with profiles for potential partners with varying levels of income and attractiveness, then everyone picked their favorites.
Parents and sons agreed that the best wives were the hottest ones, regardless of income.
Parents and daughters, however, clashed on their marital choices. Single women wanted the whole package — financial stability and six-pack abs. When parents had the option of a son-in-law with both beauty and bucks, they didn’t want him. They’d prefer if he were just a little less fuckable.
The researchers assume parents’ preference for ugly rich men might be driven by fear of divorce. A good-looking businessman might struggle to stay faithful through his mid-life crisis. When the sports car and the botox injections aren’t enough to recreate his youthful glory days, a beautiful young sugar baby might be the next step.
When it comes to preferences for wives, a lovely bride back home could make those temptations easier to resist.
The scientists say their research will need to be replicated in different settings to verify its findings across cultures. If a different culture exists — a culture where men aren’t valued most for their financial prospects and women aren't valued most for their appearance — we’ve yet to find it.