The XX Factor

Do Men Really Marry Their Mothers?

To all you young men out there swearing to mom this Sunday that when you grow up, you’ll be lucky to find a woman just like her, and to all you moms out there who believe what your sons are telling you, we are about to burst your bubble. Christine Whelan, a professor of sociology at the University of Iowa, has been analyzing results of a survey taken steadily by college students over the last seven decades asking what they want in a mate .

Men, it turns out, are increasingly interested in an educated woman who is a good financial prospect and less interested in chastity. Women are increasingly interested in a man who wants a family and less picky about whether he’s always Mr. Nice Guy.

In the latest survey, Whelan included questions about a mother’s work history. She hypothesized that men whose mothers didn’t work wouldn’t care so much about smarts or good financial prospects. (Which is also what I’ve always assumed).

Well, it turns out the differences are slight. Men who grew up with stay-at-home and working mothers ranked “education, intelligence” among the top six traits they want in a mate, and “good financial prospects” among the top 12. Now that’s progress.