During times of financial hardship women look to “feminine” males who are more nurturing and display “good-dad” genes.
During times of financial hardship women look to “feminine” males who are more nurturing and display “good-dad” genes. Darryn Smith

Meek men stand tall

THE Global Financial Crisis may have wreaked havoc on the markets, but it could have done wonders for meeker males, according to new research from the University of Queensland.

In a recent edition of the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters, UQ researchers Anthony Lee and Dr Brendan Zietsch demonstrated that environmental factors could influence a woman's choice of mate.

They found that when women were faced with the threat of disease, they were more likely to choose more masculine males with ‘good-gene' traits.

But during financial hardship or resource scarcity they look to “feminine” males who are more nurturing and display “good-dad” genes.

Mr Lee said the research was a continuation of his work in cross-cultural studies that showed women in countries with a higher instance of disease were more likely to choose males with strong masculine features.

He said this was due to the immune benefits such males could pass on to their children.

“Masculine males have increased testosterone and robust immune systems,” he said.

This would indicate that if you mate with such a male, their increased immunity would be passed on to a child.

But there is a trade-off for this choice in partner as increased testosterone is also linked with traits that lead to being a bad parent, such as a preference for short-term relationships and unfaithfulness.

On the other hand, during times of resource scarcity and financial hardship, women will trade-off the immune benefits and seek men who display nurturing qualities and “good-dad” traits.

Sixty women participated in the study. The women where divided into three groups.

One was reminded of the threat of disease, the second of concerns over finances and food, while the third was used as a control group.

They were given a list of 10 traits, five of each related to good genetic and parenting qualities.

Traits associated with good genetics included creativity and strength and those related to parenting qualities included nurturing and high earning potential.

The women with a heightened awareness of financial or resource scarcity preferred men with the “good-dad” traits, while those facing a disease threat chose men with “good-gene” traits.

Mr Lee said he was not surprised by the findings.

“It showed that women will choose mates that will maximise their offspring's survival in any environment,” he said.

However, he said the same findings were unlikely to be true with males.

“Men are not as choosy,” he said.

“For women, producing off-spring is quite costly.

“There's nine months of gestation so they are more likely to carefully consider a mate and choose one that will benefit the offspring the most.”

Next up, Mr Lee will look into other environmental factors and the influence of sex-ratios in mate preference as well as further investigate the trade-off between the good-dad traits and good-gene traits.

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