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Study: Men marry women who resemble their moms

Oedipus complex, anyone?

By Kristin Wong Nov 12, 2012 4:19PM

New research from Finland delivers bizarre but totally natural news—men are likely to marry women who resemble their mothers.

Photo: Maria Teijeiro/Getty ImagesIt's a popular opinion that women tend to marry men who remind them of their fathers. Men have the same complex, researchers say, but since men are more visual, that may explain why they tend to fall for ladies who look like Mom.

While the behavior does have an undeniable "ick" factor, it's also completely natural.

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The study, Sexual Imprinting on Facial Traits of Opposite-Sex Parents in Humans, included 70 married couples. Researchers compared the facial features of each person's spouse with the features of their opposite-sex parent. Researchers discovered that men are more likely to marry women who look like their mothers than women are to marry men who resemble their fathers. Researcher Urszula Marcinkowska explains in the study's introduction:

"We found that there was no perceived facial similarity between women's partners and their fathers. However, men tended to pair more often with women that were perceived as resembling the men's own mothers."

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It's a disturbing thought, sure, but in the grand scheme of human nature, the tendency to pair with someone who reminds you of your parent is only natural, Marcinkowska says. The study explains:

"Positive sexual imprinting is a process by which individuals use the phenotype of their opposite-sex parent as a template for acquiring mates."

Basically, natural selection programs us to seek out partners of our own species. Since our earliest same-species relationships are usually with our mothers and fathers, we use them as a template for finding our future partner.

Marcinkowska's study reinforces that phenomenon. And while it may also seem to support the general idea of Sigmund Freud's infamous Oedipus complex, Marcinkowska told us that the comparison can't quite be made.

"Freud was a valuable psychoanalyst that helped the progress of sexual selection analysis; however, his studies need to be treated with a lot of caution," she tells MSN's The Heart Beat. "Among other reasons, his theories were based on individuals (sometimes himself only) and were never checked on a broader group of subjects. [My study] is far from saying men would like to have sex with their mothers."

And what if a man chooses to marry a woman who looks strikingly different than his mother--a couple in an interracial relationship, for example? We asked Marcinkowska what this relationship trait would signify about that person's positive sexual imprinting.

"One should always be careful with interpretation of studies on sexual selection of humans," Marcinkowska explains. "By far [this study] does not mean that we all have to behave in a certain way...it is important to make people realize that these are averages for a certain group, not one, fixed way that all humans should follow. Being in a inter-cultural long-term relationship I can support this with my own example."

Photo: Maria Teijeiro/Getty Images

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Nov 13, 2012 3:27AM
Yes, the tendency in Finland.  You would probably find the same in Japan.   Yes my mother was black hair, has Asian eyes, speaks Japanese and my wife looks just like her. 
Nov 13, 2012 3:25AM
Well, let's see my mother was a tall large woman, white as snow from Oklahoma.   My wife of 46 years is a short little Mexican girl.   My mother had blue eyes and black hair.  My wife has green eyes and light brown hair.   Yes, I guess they look alike.   This is stupid.   The study was done in Finland where everyone looks alike.  
Nov 13, 2012 3:19AM
“Women remain children all their lives, for they always see only what is near at hand, cling to the present, take the appearance of a thing for reality, and prefer trifling matters to the most important.” –- Arthur Schopenhauer, On Women
“By the care she lavishes on her toilet, by the concern she has for her beauty set off by her adornment, a woman regards herself as an object always trying to attract men’s attention.” –- Georges Bataille
“Why be with a woman who thinks of you as an oppressor but treats you like a servant?” –- Thomas Ellis, The Rantings of a Single Male

Nov 13, 2012 3:04AM
lets rephrase the  headline - msn editors marry women who look like their mother or father .
Nov 13, 2012 3:00AM
Who believes this reverse psychobable and who writes this stuff? When I was a kid I liked a girl with the same 1st name as my mom. She looked nothing like my mom but it was a struggle getting around that name.   
Nov 13, 2012 3:00AM
Oh how my wife loves to be compared to my mother !!

Nov 13, 2012 2:59AM
ya right totaly opposite // with very few simularities mostly just **** females do
Nov 13, 2012 2:54AM
My wife was nothing like my mother, in appearance or personality. If she had been, I wouldn't have even dated her, much less married her.
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