Do we pick partner most similar to opposite-sex parent? Do men pick life partner who is similar to their mother? Does it apply to women too? By similar, I mean mostly character/mental features. I dont consider appearance, but It would be interesting to know if that matters.

If yes, is it possible that man (for example) would look for/pick a partner who has character opposite to his mother? What could be scientific reason for that?

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a particular person in mind? $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @jona; No. Im trying to determine if patterns which I observe in my social environment are really valid, or is it just my overinterpretation. This is generalization that comes from my observations. Second question (opposite-sex) - it seems to bo logic to me, that every case must have its negation. Im just curious too. $\endgroup$
    – DannyX
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 10:17

2 Answers 2


Good question. Here is what I found.

People may be attracted to the physical features that our opposite sex parent posses {1,2} However, the jury is out as to whether people are more likely to be attracted to people who share the mental traits of parents {3,4}. As an example of this {3} write

"Much of the current research on parental identification and mate selection is contradictory and inconclusive. The studies that are available suggest a similarity between partner choice and parental similarity, although the results for similarity between partner choice and parent vary by gender. Various theories suggest that individuals choose mates based on some type of similarity with their partners. Such similarities include values, religion, physical attractiveness, or expressiveness (Bailey et al., 1994; Boyden, Carroll, & Maier, 1984; Howard et al., 1987; Murstein, 1976). Parental identification research also is inconclusive, with some studies finding same-sex parent identification and others finding opposite-sex parent or both parent identification (Geher, 2000; von der Lippe, 1965)"

I am happy to go into more detail about any of this, if you want me to.


{1} Little, A., et al. (2003). "Investigating an imprinting-like phenomenon in humans: partners and opposite-sex parents have similar hair and eye colour." Evolution and Human Behavior 24(1): 43-51.

{2} Perrett, D. I., et al. (2002). "Facial attractiveness judgements reflect learning of parental age characteristics." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 269(1494): 873-880.

{3}van Eeden-Moorefield, B. and E. W. Lindsey (2005). "Intergenerational Effects of Parental Personality and Relationship Traits on Mate Choice Among Gay Male and Lesbian Offspring." Journal of Homosexuality 49(1): 123-143.

{4} Strokoff, Johanna, "Parental influence on romantic attraction with simulated online dating profiles." (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 2232. Retrieved from

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I appreciate your effort. I have an opinion, based on my observations, that we would most likely pick partner whos temperament is most similart to opposite-sex parent temperament. In this case, by temperament, I mean if parent is dominant or submissive. For example; If mother has leader role in family, boy-child will feel attracted by women who are (or he believes they are) dominant. If you have any informations on that I would definitely be happy to read them. There is also a case that intrigues me; what if child has no opposite-sex parrent or has many opposite-sex parents (babysitters). $\endgroup$
    – DannyX
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 7:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hi DannyX, I suggest you read some of the literature I cited. I think that the last one I cite might be particularly useful as it should have a review of the literature. With that said, I expect that the partential influences on partner choice are likely mediated by a lot of different considerations. For instance some people may identify more with one parent than the other, or one parent may be around more, or one person may be less influenced than their parents than another. Overall, I think this makes it likely that no strong effect will exist across many different context. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ Note that there is a clear mediator between what your parent is like and what partner you choose: namely what you yourself are like. For example, if men grow up to be similar to their parents (which, thanks to both genes and environment, they do), then it will be difficult to say whether the choice of partner is related to themselves or their parents. $\endgroup$
    – splint
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 8:30

From personal experience, we pick partners of many types for many reasons... But we work best with someone who is similar to our parents. We were "trained" to get along in a similar fashion and when our partner matches the same upbringing, it clicks better. We also pick partners from completely different upbringings and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Attraction can be physical, sexual, friendship, even shared difficulties or a thousand other reasons. Parents are familiar territory, finding someone who shares the sames values and goals is a powerful attraction in itself.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.