Do men marry women like their mother? Do women marry men like their father?

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Human mate choice is central to individuals’ lives and to the evolution of the species, but the basis of variation in mate choice is not well understood. Here we looked at a large community-based sample of twins and their partners and parents ([Formula: see text] individuals) to test for genetic and family environmental influences on mate choice, while controlling for and not controlling for the effects of assortative mating. Key traits were analyzed, including height, body mass index, age, education, income, personality, social attitudes, and religiosity. This revealed near-zero genetic influences on male and female mate choice over all traits and no significant genetic influences on mate choice for any specific trait. A significant family environmental influence was found for the age and income of females’ mate choices, possibly reflecting parental influence over mating decisions. We also tested for evidence of sexual imprinting, where individuals acquire mate-choice criteria during development by using their opposite-sex parent as the template of a desirable mate; there was no such effect for any trait. The main discernible pattern of mate choice was assortative mating; we found that partner similarity was due to initial choice rather than convergence and also at least in part to phenotypic matching.

Source: “Variation in human mate choice: simultaneously investigating heritability, parental influence, sexual imprinting, and assortative mating.” from The American Naturalist, 2011

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