What young people around the world want most in a partner

A new study finds an unexpected trait that young people want in a lifelong partner.

A couple in a cafe in Istanbul. September 10, 2019.

Credit: OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images.
  • A new study from the UK looked at dating preferences of 2,700 international students.
  • The study found that kindness was the top trait preferred by both men and women in a lifelong partner.
  • Looks, financial stability and a sense of humor were also important but with differences across cultures.


We often have unrealistic expectations of our partners, wanting them to fulfill us in a multitude of ways. But there's one quality that stands out above all when choosing a lifelong mate – kindness. So says a new study of college students from six countries. It beat out money and looks as the top trait young people find most desirable.

The study carried out by the UK's University of Swansea involved the dating preferences of 2,700 students in the "Eastern" countries of Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and the "Western" countries of UK, Norway and Australia. While some differences in behaviors were noticed across the world, there were also clear similarities.

For the study, participants had to "buy" characteristics they wanted in a partner from a fixed budget. They had eight attributes to choose from for spending their "mate dollars" - physical attractiveness, creativity, good financial prospects, kindness, humor, religiosity, chastity, and the desire to have children.

Responding to different budgetary scenarios, the students were asked to figure out which traits were necessary, indispensable, and which were luxuries.

On average, the young people spent 22-26% of the total budget on kindness, making it a necessity. Outside of that, men found looks most important, while women favored partners with financial stability. On the flip side, traits like chastity, creativity and the desire for children emerged as luxuries for both men and women, getting less than 10% of the budget.

Here's a chart of key findings:

BUDGET SPENT ON DIFFERENT TRAITS BY GENDER

Trait

Men

Women

Kindness

25%

24%

Physical attractiveness

23%

17%

Good financial prospects

12%

18%

Humor

15%

14%

Wants children

7%

9%

Creativity

8%

6%

Religiosity

5%

7%

Chastity

6%

5%

One interesting cultural difference that emerged from the study was that while humor was considered indispensable for men to people in all cultures, it was a "necessity" only for the Western men. It's less of a priority in Eastern cultures, suggests the research.

The desire to have children was also more of a priority for Western women. The principle researcher Dr. Andrew G. Thomas explained that this has to do with differences in family planning.

"In cultures where contraception is widespread, a partner's desire for children may predict the likelihood of starting a family," said Thomas. "In contrast, in cultures where contraception use is less widespread, having children may be a natural consequence of sex within a relationship, making actual desire for children less relevant."

Read the study here, published in the Journal of Personality.

Higher ed isn’t immune to COVID-19, but the crisis will make it stronger

The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
  • While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
  • Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Keep reading Show less

An ancient device too advanced to be real gives up its secrets at last

Researchers present what they’ve learned now that they can read the tiny text inside the Antikythera mechanism.

Exploded view of Antikythera mechanism (Peulle/Wikimedia)
Surprising Science

Though it it seemed to be just a corroded lump of some sort when it was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece near Antikythera in 1900, in 1902 archaeologist Valerios Stais, looking at the gear embedded in it, guessed that what we now call the “Antikythera mechanism" was some kind of astronomy-based clock. He was in the minority—most agreed that something so sophisticated must have entered the wreck long after its other 2,000-year-old artifacts. Nothing like it was believed to have existed until 1,500 years later.

Keep reading Show less

Hyper-innovation: COVID-19 will forever change the way we teach kids

The institutional barriers that have often held creative teaching back are being knocked down by the coronavirus era.

Future of Learning
  • Long-held structures in the education system, like classroom confines and schedules, have held back innovation for a long time, says education leader Richard Culatta.
  • In the coronavirus era, we have been able to shake some of those rigid structures loose, making way for creativity and, ultimately, a more open mindset.
  • When creativity and technology combine, learning can become so much more than delivering content to a student. Culatta gives two stunning examples: one of a biotech class, and another involving a student discovering a star.
Keep reading Show less

Algorithms associating appearance and criminality have a dark past

We'd like to think that judging people's worth based on the shape of their head is a practice that's behind us.

PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images
Culture & Religion

'Phrenology' has an old-fashioned ring to it. It sounds like it belongs in a history book, filed somewhere between bloodletting and velocipedes.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…