Open in a separate window For boys, the potential confounder relationship status was not significantly related to dating desire. In contrast, age and relationship experience were significantly related to dating desire, indicating that boys who were older and had more relationship experience reported more dating desire. After controlling for these variables, the significant main effects of attractiveness and social status were qualified by the interaction effect of attractiveness x social status.
For girls, the potential confounders age, relationship status, and previous relationship experience were not significantly related to dating desire. After controlling for these variables, significant main effects of attractiveness and social status were found, indicating that girls showed more dating desire in the attractive and in the high social status condition. Dating desire was the dependent variable and age, relationship status, and previous relationship experience were included as covariates.
This time, however, self-perceived mate value SPMV was included in the models as a moderator. For boys, no significant effects were found for the control variables relationship status and relationship experience. For girls, no significant effects were found for the control variables age, relationship status, and relationship experience.
Discussion Research on SST has been dominated by studies using young adult samples. When explicitly asked to rate various characteristics of a potential partner, boys rated attractiveness as more important than girls. Social status was not very important for both boys and girls. Finally, we found that self-perceived mate value moderated the relationship between attractiveness and dating desire for both boys and girls.
Specifically, adolescents who perceived themselves as having a high mate value showed more dating desire if the other person was attractive compared to adolescents who perceived themselves as having a lower mate value.
This might imply that previous findings on sexual strategies that were exclusively based on self-report ratings had underestimated the importance of attractiveness, in particular for girls. Ample studies on adult samples also indicated that both men and women strive for attractive short-term mates Buunk et al. Our study showed that the tendency to seek attractive partners for short-term mating can also be found in adolescents who are at the beginning of their relationship career and still have little experience with dating.
For boys, on the contrary, social status of the potential partner would be less important due to their minimal parental investment. The present results supported this hypothesized sex difference partly. For boys, however, social status was important only when the potential partner was attractive. Although in comparison to the importance of attractiveness for adolescent dating desire, social status was a minor short-term strategy.
Apparently, adolescents do not attach much importance to finding a partner who has a high social status. This may be explained by the fact that, in adolescence, sexual behaviors are just beginning to emerge and adolescents still live at home with parents. Hence, it is possible that social status will become increasingly important during the transition into adulthood, when individuals need to become independent and have to take care of themselves. Moreover, it is not until then when differences between indicators of social status of a potential short-term partner become clear e.
For example, Kenrick, Gabrielidis, Keefe, and Cornelius showed that, if adolescents were asked who they would ideally date, both boys and girls would prefer older partners. Moreover, it has been shown that girls indeed dated older boys Connolly et al. Thus, it could be that sex differences will occur as older potential partners perhaps will elicit the importance of social status. In line with SST, evidence emerged for the moderating role of self-perceived mate value emerged from our study see also Landolt et al.
Our results indicated that adolescents did not generally aim for the best partner possible, but that they choose a partner that fits their own mate value.
It is important, however, to interpret this moderator effect in the light of its small effect size. That is, although significant, the moderating effect of self-perceived mate value was rather weak and seems to play only a minor role in the light of the overriding importance of physical attractiveness of a potential partner.
Interestingly, we found that girls generally showed more dating desire compared to boys in the context of short-term mating. Furthermore, girls have larger other-sex friendship networks compared to boys and start developing these friendships at a younger age, which allows the earlier establishment of romantic relationships Connolly et al.
Despite the fact that we extended previous studies on SST by means of correlational and experimental paradigms using a large adolescent sample, some limitations should be addressed. First of all, we adapted the descriptions of social status from previous research on adults and older adolescents. However, the cues that potential partners display referring to either high or low social status might differ for adolescents and adults.
For adults, being highly ambitious is an indicator of high social status. For adolescents, this may be less clear and perhaps other characteristics of potential partners are more accurate to measure social status e. Thus, future research is needed to test whether the same results would be found if more appropriate descriptions of social status were provided. In addition, the indicators of the low status condition should be formulated more comparable as in the low status condition the vignette person was fatherless and in the high status condition father had a high social status occupation.
Further, we found support for the association between self-perceived mate value and adolescent dating desire. Adolescents who perceived themselves as having a high mate value showed more dating desire with attractive potential partners compared to adolescents who perceived themselves as having a lower mate value.
Therefore, the present results reveal that SST is at least partly applicable to adolescents dating desire, but needs further attention in terms of how social status might be defined in this age group. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and source are credited.
Footnotes 1Extensive literature exists about long-term mating and important mate characteristics of long-term mates. However, the present study focused on adolescent dating desire and is, therefore, framed within the context of short-term mating.
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