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Throughout history, parents’ reactions towards their children are different based on their gender. Whereas sexuality or choice of mate selection is concerned, the reactions are more vivid. It is observed that parents guard the sexuality of their daughter more vehemently than their son. There could be numerous reasons and this article focuses on such behaviors and uncovers the underlying reasons behind such behaviors.
An individual engages in short-term preferential sexual behavior which helps them to attract and ensure long-term partner in form of a spouse. Choice of short-term preferential sexual behavior is considered as an underlying reason to find the most appropriate long-term partner. it is preferred by any individual to ensure the survivability of the next generation in form of their kids. However, the choice of a partner does not depend entirely on the choice of the individual but is influenced by the preference of the parents. In most pre-industrial societies and even still in rural and semi-urban, and to some extent in urban areas, parents exercise considerable influence in controlling the mate choice of their children which is in form of arranged marriage. Parents apply numerous methods like persuasion, threats, and appeals to loyalty, maintenance of ritual, customs, and dignity of the family.
The study is conducted by Menelaos Apostolou and Spyroulla Georgiou, professor at the Department of Social Sciences, University of Nicosia, Cyprus. It tries to understand the reasoning from an evolutionary psychology point of view. The study is focused on the parent-offspring conflict theory. Since the infant has 100% of its own genes, 50 % of parent’s genes, and just 25% of grandparent’s genes, everyone has a different level of interest in the wellbeing and survival of others. The study begins with three hypotheses: 1) parents and offspring are likely to disagree over the short-term sexual orientation of offspring and parents are more likely to disagree; 2) parents are more likely to disapprove of the short-term mating strategies of their daughters than of their sons; 3) mothers and fathers are expected to agree on how much they disagree over the short-term mating strategies of their children. The study conducted surveys of numerous parents and children to understand their viewpoints to support and reject the stated hypotheses.
The study is conducted by Menelaos Apostolou and Spyroulla Georgiou, professor at the Department of Social Sciences, University of Nicosia. In this study, 148 Greek-Cypriot families — the ethnic Greek population of Cyprus — took part. It consists of 245 parents (140 women, 105 men), and 196 children (119 women, 77 men). The mean age of mothers was 48.5, and the mean age of fathers was 52.4. Daughters’ mean age was 22.1, and sons’ mean age was 24.5.
There were two versions of the survey: one administered to parents and the other to their children. The version administered to parents had three parts. In the first part, demographic information was collected (sex, age, marital status, number of daughters and sons, age of the oldest male child and the oldest female child). In the second part, participants were asked to rate how acceptable they considered a set of short-term mating strategies for their daughters and for their sons assuming that both of them were single. In the third part, participants were asked to rate how acceptable they considered a set of short-term mating strategies assuming that their offspring were married.
The version provided to children had a similar format: In the first part demographic information was collected. In the second part, participants were asked to rate how acceptable they considered a set of short-term mating strategies for themselves assuming that they were single, and in the third part to rate a set of short-term mating strategies assuming that they were married. The conclusions support the first two hypotheses and partial support for the third hypothesis.
First findings — parents and children disagree over short-term mating strategies
The study observes and supports the first hypothesis: parents and offspring are likely to disagree over the short-term sexual orientation of offspring and parents are more likely to disagree. Another observation on a similar line is that disagreement between the two parties is reduced when the children are married. A similar study observes that parents and offspring disagree over long-term mating strategies as the ideal spouse for children is not the ideal in-law for their parents because traits such as beauty and exciting personality are preferred more in a spouse than in an in-law. Since the infant has 100% of its own genes, 50 % of parent’s genes, and just 25% of grandparent’s genes, everyone has a different level of interest in the wellbeing and survival of others. This could be plausible reasoning behind parent-offspring conflict theory.
Also, with the age, parents become more disapproving of short-term mating strategies. As a result, the conflicts are more severe if the age gap between parents and child is large. Therefore, individuals who choose to have children later in life will find themselves disagreeing more often over mating with their offspring than parents who have children earlier on. It happens because as people get older, they become more conservative.
Seconds Findings — parents are more likely to disapprove of the short-term mating strategies of their daughters than of their sons
Another interesting observation from the study is that parents consider short-term mating strategies of their daughter less acceptable than that of their son. Parents become more disturbed if their daughter is found to be engaged in such behavior. The author expects that the daughters-parents fights are expected to be more severe than the sons-parents ones, as parents consider their daughters’ short-term mating to be a more serious breach of good conduct. As a result, female mate seekers will try to be secretive about their relationships so as to avoid the anger of their parents. Such behavior of parents is because of understanding that short-term mating strategies of a daughter, which could possibly be resulting in pregnancy, are a costlier affair for parents than similar action committed by a son.
Third findings — parents are not in agreement over the short-term mating of their children
Mothers and fathers agree with respect to how much they disagree over their daughters’ short-term mating; however, this is not so with their sons, as fathers are less disapproving than mothers. It indicates that the short-term mating of sons may be less costly to fathers than to mothers. Another possible explanation is that fathers, being themselves more prone to short-term mating strategies than their wives, empathize more with their sons than with their daughters, something that makes them more approving of the short-term mating behavior of the son.
The studies do observe limitations and solicit future courses of study. The survey was limited to a single culture and future research should attempt to replicate its findings in distinct cultural contexts.
The study can be found here.