Parents value different traits in their kids’ mates

Donovan Sanders

While parents may not actually greet their children’s partners with a shotgun in hand, that first encounter can still be tense for all involved. A UT study shows that differing values between parents and their children may lead to disagreement about what makes a quality mate.

Two-hundred-and-seventeen female students, 100 male students, 121 mothers and 117 fathers participated in the survey, which asked them to identify the key traits they would hope to see in their partner or their child’s partner. All the participants were UT students and their parents. Psychologist and UT doctoral candidate Carin Perilloux, who conducted and co-authored the study, then compiled lists of the top 10 traits for each group.

Sons prioritized attractiveness, followed by intelligence, kindness and exciting personality. Daughters’ lists included the same traits but in a different order — kindness was the top trait, then intelligence, exciting personality and attractiveness. Mothers and fathers both desired kindness, intelligence and health for their children’s partners.

The students who participated in the survey were given extra credit because the work had to be done outside of class. Perilloux said she wanted to see if the parents had a direct influence on what their children looked for in their partners.

“The most interesting aspect was what daughters wanted and what their parents wanted was basically on the same line with each other,” Perilloux said.

Perilloux said she hoped to use the study to gather data on how parents and offspring might differ in finding a mate. Perilloux has also done research on daughter guarding, which looks at ways in which parents guard their daughters from early consensual or nonconsensual sexual activity. Both of these studies show how parents’ actions and opinions directly reflect the choices their children make in their everyday lives, she said.

“The first thing I personally look for is for the girl to be intelligent. Of course, looks come into play, but intelligence is what really matters,” said government freshman Rene Burnias, who did not participate in the study. “This never caused any problems with my parents unless, of course, I dated someone who didn’t have these traits, which did happen a few times.”

Esther Gonzalez, mother of advertising freshman Miriam Esqueda, said she had views similar to those of the mothers in the study.

“I would want to see a young man that is most importantly kind, followed by honest and intelligent,” Gonzalez said.