Good genes, good providers, and good fathers: Economic development involved in how women select a mate

Huijing Lu, Xiao Qin Zhu, Lei Chang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Men's mate values are defined based on three broad categories-good genes, good providers, both of which are selected early across the animal kingdom, and good fathers that represent the last pedigree of primate evolution and may have contributed to the human development of modernity and gender equality. Women select long-term mates based on these 3 mate values, and women's mate preference over them depends on the prevailing ecological conditions. Based on 4 samples comprising a total of 1,257 Chinese women, we found that women in general and those with high socioeconomic status in particular (Study 1), as well as women in cities compared with rural women (Study 2), preferred good-father over good-provider and good-genes attributes in long-term relationships. Similar results were obtained in an experimental study (n = 123) where, under good economic compared to poor economic and control conditions, women prioritized good-father over good-provider and good-genes attributes. These findings indicate that in modern-day economies, in which a woman spends the same amount of time and energy on education and employment and acquires approximately the same amount of resources and same extent of safety and disease protection as men, her mate preference is likely to center on good-father attributes, as her reproductive success depends on a helper at the nest increasingly more than other mate contributions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-228
Number of pages14
JournalEvolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Female mate preference
  • Good fathers
  • Good genes
  • Good providers
  • Life history
  • Mate value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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