Parental control over mating across cultures and across time

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


When it comes to mate choice, parents do not share the same preferences with their children. In particular, traits such as good family background are preferred more by parents in an in-law than by children in a spouse, while traits such as beauty are preferred more by children in a spouse than by parents in an in-law. Consequently, if offspring are left to exercise mate choice on their own, they are going to choose mates who do not comply with their parents' preferences. This gives an incentive to the latter to control the mate choices of the former. Parents are able to exercise power over their daughters' and sons' mating behavior because they are physically stronger and because children are dependent on parental resources for survival and reproduction. Being physically weaker and more dependent on parental resources, daughters are more vulnerable to parental control than sons. Furthermore, by means of greater physical strength, control of resources, weapons and political institutions, male parents are able to exercise more power over the their children's mate choices than female ones. The environmental context a population occupies determines the degree that children at marital age are dependent on their parents and the degree that parents can use physical force to impose their will. Accordingly, parental power over mating varies across different environments. Evidence from a number of studies is presented that examines the control parents exercise over the mating decisions of their children across different cultural settings and across different historical times.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of Power
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781619424869
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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