When it comes to online dating
profiles, conventional wisdom deems
that photos with kids are a huge no-
no, the kind that sends Tinderellas
swiping left. But new research
suggests that kids can really help men
up their game, at least if they want a
long-term relationship.
That’s right — bring on the little
buggers. Women find guys who are
adept with kids more attractive,
according to a 2014 study in the
Journal of Human Behavior in the
Social Environment. Nicolas Guéguen,
a professor of social and cognitive
psychology at the University of South
Brittany, based his findings on a field
experiment — outside a local bar.
They suggest that for the long haul,
women want more than a provider
who makes bank; they want a loving
father, too.
Earlier studies have also found that
women feel more attracted to men
who have an affinity for children, but
most of this research involved
surveying and showing participants
photographs in a laboratory. Guéguen
told OZY in an email that he wanted
to confirm this allure in a real-world
setting. So he recruited three 20-year-
old male volunteers, as well as two
mothers and their infants. When a
single woman sat at a table, a male
volunteer took a post at a nearby
table. A minute later, a mother
arrived with her baby. The male
volunteer greeted the mom as his
“dear sister.” Then he either kissed
and stroked the baby while chatting
with his “sister” about how her child
ate and slept, or simply said “Hi,
baby,” and asked about her car
troubles. After his “sister” left, the
male volunteer made his move on the
woman he eyed earlier and asked for
her number.
After Casanova left, a female
volunteer asked the participant to
complete a survey. The 49
participants, ages 18 to 25, who
agreed to do so rated the male
volunteer’s attractiveness — overall
and as a long-term partner — as well
as how fatherly, kind and loving he
was on a scale of 1 to 10. Women
were three times more likely to give
out their numbers when the male
volunteer acted affectionately toward
the baby, and in these cases, they
gave him significantly more positive
ratings in every category.
But apparently how a woman
treats children has no effect
on her attractiveness to men.
Guéguen noted that he used a small
sample size from a bar in Brittany —
definitely not representative of all
women — although he might go on to
replicate the experiment in other
countries. The study also doesn’t
reflect the real-life trade-offs between
financial stability and paternal
qualities, said David Geary, a
professor of psychology at the
University of Missouri. For example,
Guéguen could have determined how
dressing the male volunteer in a suit
affected the women’s ratings.
“Women like nice paternal guys, but
there comes a point where he needs
to make a certain amount of money,”
he said.
Still, Guéguen’s study makes sense
from an evolutionary perspective.
Since men have what’s called a short-
term mating strategy — having sex
with no long-term cost — they care
more about finding a fertile (read:
physically attractive) woman; a classic
1995 study found that how a woman
treated children had no effect on her
attractiveness to men. But women are
more sensitive to contextual
variables, seeking men with not only
the ability to acquire resources, but
also a willingness to invest in them
and their kids. Plus, “good dad
qualities” might also make good
partner qualities, said David Buss, a
professor of psychology at the
University of Texas at Austin. The
result? The entire family fares better.
“The better the husband-wife
relationship, the better she treats him,
the better he treats the children,”
Geary said.
Top Image Source: John Lund/Getty
Women were three times
more likely to give their
phone number when the male
volunteer acted affectionately
toward the baby.