The Heart Beat The Heart Beat blog

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.

Related: Sexy things that may not be

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."

Related: 6 fascinating facts about exes

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

Subscribe to The Heart Beat

Tell us on Facebook: Do you think there is any truth to this?

More Sex & Love on MSN Living:

Scariest marriage proposals
What his date style says about him
Little gestures she wishes you'd do
10 things he should do to make you happy

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.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

love: friendships, dating, sex & marriage

  • courtesy of viralnova.com // courtesy of viralnova.com (courtesy of viralnova.com)

    This special note will make you believe in love

    Forgotten what love is all about? Read this note, and remember.

  • fotostorm, Getty Images // fotostorm, Getty Images (fotostorm, Getty Images)

    3 surprising factors that predict a happy love life

    And a few that aren't so shocking.

  • 9 marital habits

    9 marital habits to avoid

    If you find yourself doing any of these things, consider changing your behavior or counseling.

  • Glass lamps

    Inspiring expert wedding ideas

    From pineapple sculptures made out of sunflowers to bold graphic printed tablecloths, ten trendsetters in the wedding industry shared 100 days’ worth of inspiring new wedding details. See The Knot editors’ top picks for the coolest and most awe-worthy ideas from the wedding experts.

  • Ever couple gets into the nothing fight

    The 10 rocky moments every relationship faces

    Those Facebook friends who seem to have perfect lives with flawless mates whom they adore at all times? Even they face tough times like these.

  • Lies wives tell

    7 lies your wife tells you

    How to flag her little fibs. By Laura Tedesco

  • A new study on attraction may help explain why fashions change. AFP Photo, ©Serg Zastavkin, shutterstock.com // A new study on attraction may help explain why fashions change. AFP Photo, ©Serg Zastavkin, shutterstock.com (A new study on attraction may help explain why fashions change. AFP Photo, ©Serg Zastavkin, shutterstock.com)

    Being the odd one out may make you more attractive

    A new study on attraction may help explain why fashions change.

  • The Viceroy Anguilla

    Great getaways for a spring-summer honeymoon

    As a general rule, any island that offers great weather year-round is going to attract the most visitors in the winter (high season) when we’re all trying to escape the snow. Once summer rolls around, many islands see a sharp drop-off in tourism since many people have beach weather right in their own backyards.

  • Getty Images

    The top 10 complaints from unhappy husbands

    And how you can attack the issues together.

  • 25 wedding photo bombs

    25 wedding photo bombs

    A wedding is an exceptionally special day. Sometimes, an opportune photo flub makes the occasion even more memorable. Here are 25 awesome wedding photo bombs.

  • He takes you on nondrinking dates.

    7 signs he’s getting serious about you

    Somewhere between the first few butterfly-inducing dates and the committed-for-life stage, there’s the period of wondering if you’re both on the same page about how serious you feel about a future together. If you’re not quite at the point of "that talk" but you’re looking for a few clues you’re heading in that direction, here are some signs he’s in it for the long haul as your relationship progresses.

  • 'Have you tried online dating?'

    15 things single people are tired of hearing

    What’s that sound? It’s white noise blocking out the well-meaning person proclaiming groundbreaking news about where you can meet someone, asking why you’re still single, or bugging you about when you’re getting married already. Don’t be that person. Here are 15 annoying things all single people don’t want to hear.

buzzing now on msn living
The Heart Beat is a Great Dating Blogs Winner The Heart Beat is a Great Dating Blogs Winner
relationship videos
editor's picks
the heart beat