Oct. 22, 2003
Dads and cads: U-M study tests female preferences for partners
That’s according to a new study by the University of Michigan.
“About 60 percent of the women said they would prefer to have sex with a cad when considering a brief affair,” said Daniel Kruger, a social psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), the world’s largest academic social science survey and research organization.
For the study, appearing in the current issue of the journal Human Nature, Kruger and co-authors Maryanne Fisher and Ian Jobling tested evolutionary mating theories using hypothetical scenarios involving classic cad and dad character types from 18th and 19th century British literature. The subjects were an ethnically diverse group of 257 female undergraduates at a large Midwestern university.
The women read passages from Romantic novels describing two prototypical dads and two prototypical cads and answered a series of questions. While the women said they preferred dads for long-term relationships, they found cads more desirable as short-term mates. Their tendency to choose cads over dads increased as the length of the hypothetical relationship decreased.
According to Kruger, the findings imply that the dad versus cad distinction is intuitive to women and remains a key element of contemporary mating strategies. Women’s preference for cads for short-term relationships supports what evolutionary psychologists call the “sexy son hypothesis,” Kruger said. Even though cads aren’t good bets to stick around and help raise children, the genes that make men successful cads will be passed along to their sons, who will increase their mothers’ eventual reproductive success by providing numerous grandchildren.
Finally, Kruger noted, the distinction between dads and cads is intuitive enough
that women showed a strong preference for dads as potential sons-in-law. Only
13 percent of the women said they would prefer to see an imagined 25-year-old
daughter engaged to a cad. “A cad would be less likely to provide paternal
support for offspring,” Kruger said, “which means that a daughter
might turn to the maternal family for help. That could adversely impact the
grandmother’s overall reproductive success.”
Contact: Diane Swanbrow