Ideal-self fulfillment and sex-roles in mate selection

Debra Lynn Newman Solowey, Fordham University


Numerous theorists and researchers have studied the process of mate selection. Freud's (1921/1959) theory that people look for a partner who represents their ideal self has received some empirical support (Karp, Jackson & Lester, 1970; Murstein, 1976). A separate notion regarding choice of mate has been based on recent work on the importance of sex roles (Bem, 1974). The theorizing is that a particular pattern of sex role pairing between a person and their partner is the goal (Murstein & Williams, 1983; Orlofsky, 1982). The present study was designed to investigate whether the quest for the ideal self is a factor in the sex role of the mate chosen. Further, the aim was to determine whether selecting a partner who represented the ideal led to greater dyadic satisfaction. Sixty heterosexual couples, applying for marriage licenses in a suburb of New York City were given the Bem Sex-Role inventory under three instructional sets: to describe "yourself," "yourself as you would ideally like to be" and "your partner." They also were asked to complete a demographic questionnaire and the Spanier Dyadic Adjustment Scale. The results indicate that both males and females tend to choose partners who represent their ideal self in sex role classification. The idea that the partner would be more similar to the ideal than the actual self was supported only for females on masculinity traits. The prediction that a partner who represents the ideal would lead to greater satisfaction was not supported. Supplemental analyses using a simulated control group created from the actual data indicated it was unlikely these results had occurred by chance. It was concluded that the quest for the ideal self may be a salient factor in the sex role of the partner chosen. This was particularly true for women in seeking their ideal masculinity through their partner. Males, however, seemed more traditional regarding what they look for in a mate. Contrary to expectation, a partner who represents the ideal self does not seem to lead to greater satisfaction with the relationship.

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Recommended Citation

Newman Solowey, Debra Lynn, "Ideal-self fulfillment and sex-roles in mate selection" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918645.