Much has been written and said about a child’s attachment to his/her opposite-sex parent. We all have heard the common phrase of endearments ‘daddy’s princess’ or ‘mamma’s boy’. Have you ever heard something like a ‘daddy’s prince’ or ‘mamma’s girl’? Also, as a child steps into adulthood, it’s not strange to find them compare a prospective partner with his or her opposite parent. After marriage, it’s not uncommon for a husband to compare his wife with his mother and a statement like, “You should ask my mother the recipe for biryani. No one can make biryani like my mother” or something in similar lines is enough to fuel a fight between the spouses! Or, it’s not strange for a girl to compare her husband with her father in a very asexual manner. Like, how her father made sure that all her wishes were fulfilled or how her father understood her so well.
Which brings us to this question that many dread to raise: Are we naturally-inclined to get attracted to a person who looks like our parent? This might sound like a very creepy question but a lot of researchers, including the likes of Sigmund Freud, have been greatly interested in this subject. David Perrett, a psychologist from the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, carried out two recent studies to find an answer to this disturbing question. In his first study, the researcher asked the participants to rate the attractiveness of faces of different ages. The study results revealed a startling fact—the female participants who were born to parents above 30 years, stated that they found faces that looked mature more attractive than younger-looking faces. On the other hand, a woman born to parents under 30 years found younger-looking faces more attractive than those that looked a little aged. For male participants, those who were looking for long-term relationships, their choice of attractive faces were influenced by their mother’s age, for example, if a man has an aged mother, he preferred women who looked mature than others.
In his second and follow-up study, the researcher David Perrett also established the relationship between how a person’s choice of a partner is influenced by similar physical attributes of his parents like hair and eye colour. Most of the participants of the study stated that they were attracted to a person who had the same or similar hair and eye colour like their parents.
The researcher explained the reason behind these occurrences with the help of two psychological phenomena. The first being imprinting—our parents are the first people we trust. So, we develop the instinct to trust people who have similar attributes like our parents because that is what is imprinted in our brains. The second explanation is based on the ‘exposure effect’. “It’s well established that people generally respond positively to familiar stimuli and parental traits may be very salient familiar features,” stated the study.
Another researcher named Tamsin Saxton, a senior lecturer in psychology at the Northumbria University in Newcastle, too carried out a research to find a possible connection between choosing a partner with similar facial features like their parents and the relationship they share with their parents. The study report stated, “Women who retrospectively reported greater emotional support from their mother or father after menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation) preferred partners whose eye color was closer to that of the parents.”
Many studies have established that people do get attracted to prospective partners who look like their parents. In case, you too have experienced the same, there is no reason to feel guilty, right?