Parental bonding, face preferences in childhood, and sexual imprinting

Gyuris Petra, Kocsor Ferenc, T. Bereczkei

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Background and objectives: In the last years several research reports have been published which studied the effect of parental appearance on the social preferences of adults. The current study aims at investigating whether parental models are used by children in their social relations. Methods: In our study we used a computer software to manipulate composite faces so as to resemble the parents of the participating children (between 3 and 14 years). The images were arranged into pairs and the children were asked to choose the one they fnd more attractive from each pair. The children's relation with their parents was assessed with the Düss-tale test and the IPPA questionnaire. Results: In the age group of the 11-14 years old children we found that high scores on the maternal alienation subscale (i. e., good relation with the mother) increased the likelihood of choosing a peer resembling the participant's mother. That was particularly true for boys. Similarly, in the group of boys between 3-6, and 7-10 years, good relation with the mother increased the chance of prefering a mother-resembling face to controls. In contrast, in this age group good parental relation decreased girls preference for maternal faces. Conclusions: These results suggest that experiences in childhood affect children's face preferences, which may be maintained in adulthood, too, influencing interpersonal decisions. This may manifest, for instance, in a bias for parent-resembling people in various social relations, such as mate-choice. We assume that evolutionary causes stand in the background, but the differences we found in our study between the age groups indicate that constraints of cognitive maturation might also crucially contribute to the development of these preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-508
Number of pages18
JournalMagyar Pszichologiai Szemle
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2017



  • Children's faces
  • Face preference
  • Family environment
  • Mate choice
  • Sexual imprinting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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