Influence of father and brother on partner choice in women in personality characteristics

Choosing a partner is one of the most important steps in life, as it subsequently impacts other aspects of our lives (such as satisfaction, health, reproduction, etc.). One of the important factors influencing partner selection is our parents. In this case, we are talking about the so-called imprinting-like effect (you can read more about it in the chapter “Sexual Imprinting in a Comparative Perspective”). This is an early fixation of the characteristics of a close person who is subsequently used as a template when choosing a partner. Research shows that people choose partners similar to their parents of the opposite sex, especially when they evaluate their relationship with them positively. Most studies so far have focused on the influence of parents, but because we are developing close relationships with other close individuals, the question is, what role do siblings play.

The main objective of the study was to test whether women choose partners who have a similar personality as their father and brother. Last but not least, we first tested the influence of father/brother and partner similarity on respondent’s partner satisfaction. The final sample of the study consisted of 211 heterosexual women (average age = 27.34 years) who assessed the personality of their long-term partner, brother and father (as they remember from their childhood) in a questionnaire. We used the Big Five questionnaire, which measures extraversion, neuroticism, openness to new experiences, friendliness and conscientiousness.

The results showed that heterosexual women choose partners similar to their fathers and brothers, especially in neuroticism. The quality of the relationship between the respondent and the father/brother during childhood did not affect the expectation of similarity between father/brother and partner. Similarity between father/brother and partner also positively influenced the respondent´s satisfaction in partnership. In other words, when the partner and father or brother were alike, the respondents rated the relationship as more satisfied.

Our results show that women choose partners who are similar to their fathers/brothers in certain characteristics, although it appears that fathers are likely to play a larger role. This strategy could be seen as adaptive, because women have already learned to get on with a given male model, so this strategy could serve to reduce the risk of breaking up and to increase partner satisfaction. The results of our analyses suggest that similarity between a partner and a brother may be a side effect of father and partner similarity. Due to the fact that the quality of the relationship with father/brother during childhood was not found to be similar to father/brother and partner, the results suggest that rather than associative learning, it could be just an imprinting-like effect.

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