According to the results of a recent study, men who have experienced childhood maltreatment and stress prefer romantic partners who are heavy rather than thin. Jason M. Fletcher of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Yale School of Public Health in Connecticut chose to extend the research on resource scarcity which suggests that people who have experienced abuse, neglect, or maltreatment are drawn to heavier body types because of the perceived ability of that body type to provide resources.
However, until now, few studies have looked at potential differences between types of childhood stress and their independent impact on body type preference. Additionally, little research has been devoted to the preference of men versus women. Therefore, Fletcher studied male and female teenage participants and evaluated their body type preferences during high school and into early adulthood. He looked at their childhood experiences of stress, abuse, neglect, maltreatment, socioeconomic status, and other factors to arrive at his findings.
The results revealed two distinct and unique patterns. First, men who had a history of neglect, abuse, or maltreatment of any kind tended to be attracted to obese women rather than thin women. The severity of the abuse was directly associated with the increased body mass index (BMI) of the women men chose as partners. This result supports existing research in this area.
However, in contrast to some of the literature on this topic, the women with abuse or neglect histories were more likely to be romantically attracted to thin men rather than heavy or obese men. Fletcher believes that for many women, the visible appearance of strength, as exhibited by a chest-waist ratio, may be a better indicator of resource availability than BMI alone.
“Overall these results in part confirm previous work on body type preference,” said Fletcher, “But also suggest opportunities for future research.” One area of research that could further strengthen our understanding of the neglect-partner preference association is to focus on sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and physical abuse independently and determine what influence, if any, the body type of the perpetrator has on survivors’ mate preferences.
Fletcher, J.M., Tefft, N. (2013). The long-term effects of stress on partner weight characteristics. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66353. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066353
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