Sex Roles

pp 1–11 | Cite as

Breadwinner Seeks Bottle Warmer: How Women’s Future Aspirations and Expectations Predict Their Current Mate Preferences

  • Alyssa CroftEmail author
  • Toni Schmader
  • Alec Beall
  • Mark Schaller
Original Article


Contemporary women in Western cultures are often trying to juggle careers alongside personal and societal expectations for childrearing in an effort to “have it all.” We examine the effects of this balancing act on heterosexual women’s mate selection motivations. Across three Canadian samples (n = 360), we tested concurrent hypotheses about the desirability of both similar and complementary characteristics in a potential mate. Specifically, women’s aspirations (to prioritize career over family) and their expectations for the roles they will most likely adopt within their future partnerships (primary breadwinner and/or caregiver) were tested as key predictors of mate preferences. Although specific effects varied across samples, a mega-analysis of the combined sample and an internal meta-analysis of effect sizes from the three studies provided support for both complementary and similarity motives (controlling for gender role attitudes). Women’s aspirations to prioritize career (over family) predicted greater similarity in mate preferences, such that they placed less importance on men’s parenting qualities, more importance on their access to financial resources, and preferred a career-oriented over family-oriented exemplar. However, women’s expectations of actually taking on the breadwinner role predicted greater complementarity in mate preferences (greater desirability of parenting qualities and a family-oriented partner; with financial resources rated as less important). Our work expands current understanding of women’s decision-making processes when selecting a mate and has implications for men’s changing traits and roles.


Gender roles Mate preferences Communal Agentic Expectations Aspirations 



This research was supported by the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology and the Society for the Psychology of Women (APA Division 35).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All research conducted in this manuscript was in compliance with standards for the ethical treatment of human participants and approval from the University of British Columbia Ethics Board was obtained prior to data collection.

Supplementary material

11199_2019_1080_MOESM1_ESM.docx (429 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 428 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alyssa Croft
    • 1
    Email author
  • Toni Schmader
    • 2
  • Alec Beall
    • 2
  • Mark Schaller
    • 2
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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