The aim of the current studies was to test an assumption that variation in female preferences for sexually dimorphic male facial characteristics reflects strategic optimisation of investment in offspring. A negative relationship was predicted between ideal number of children and preferences for masculine male face shapes, as the benefits of securing paternal investment should outweigh the benefits of securing good genes as the costs of raising offspring increase. In Study 1 desired number of children and preferences for masculine face shapes were compared in a sample of female students. In study 2, the prediction was tested in a sample with a wider age profile while controlling for relationship status. Preferences for explicit partner characteristics were also assessed. The prediction was supported: women who desired a higher number of children preferred more feminine male face shapes and ranked cues to investment of parental care over cues to immunocompetence in a partner more highly than those who desired fewer children. Results indicate that female mate preferences vary with reproductive strategy and support assumptions that preferences for feminine male faces reflect preferences for “good dads”.
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