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Mate Selection in American Society Then and Now Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021


Who is the right person to marry? Every man and woman who is married or intending to marry must have had that question in mind. Selecting a marriage partner is very important. This is because the kind of a mate one selects determines what kind of marriage they will have. Therefore, one has to be careful in selecting a marriage partner. What is the most important thing when choosing a life partner? It is race, culture, education level, personality or love. This paper will endeavor to look at mate selection in the American society. How the selection varies from other cultures of the world. The paper will also look at differences between selecting a mate now and 40 -50 years ago. What is the best way to select mate according to researches? How do ethnic backgrounds such as race, religion play a role in selecting mate? Why careful selection of mate is important for success of marriage? How do societal factors influence selecting a partner?

Selection of mate in American society

In the American society “feeling romantic is a prerequisite for choosing a marriage partner” (Dixon 45). The romantic love involves physical attraction, sex, passion as well as deep emotions. However, it is important to note that this has not always been the case. Those who believe in romantic love are of the opinion that love conquers all. Therefore, when selecting a mate romantic love is a crucial criterion in this society. Most Americans believe in marrying their soul mate (Hamon and Ingoldsby 11).

One is also expected to select a mate outside “their own kin group” (Andersen and Taylor 394). The trend in the American society is to select mates who have similar characteristics to their own. This is a general selection criterion called homogamy. People are discouraged from marrying next of kin or within family, which is exogamy (Hamon and Ingoldsby 11).

People also select mates who are in similar occupations. This depends on the educational background. People who attended elite private schools get the chances to advance their education in institutions of higher learning. When they come to selecting mates they select people who are in respectable professions and with similar educational backgrounds (Reeves 227-228).

Most Americans depend on dating activities to find their life partners. They will date about one to before selecting the partner to settle down within marriage (Hamon and Ingoldsby 10). Americans value people who are physically attractive and hence they make themselves attractive to compete better. This may lead to people putting on false images. For example, men may exaggerate their sincerity and commitment and income” to please the women (Hamon and Ingoldsby 10). Women on the other hand, “use all kinds of deceptions to enhance their physical appearance” to attract men (Hamon and Ingoldsby 10). This tendency is different from young Jews selecting mates because they value honesty in courtship.

Selection of mates in other societies

In Philippines, marriage is not a personal affair. It is a social union involving two families. Even when a young man and woman choose a life partner, they are influenced by other factors other than their own. In a study done females between the age of 15-24 prefer men who are responsible, loving, understanding, intelligent, have a steady job, compatible and “acceptable to parents” (Bustos and Espiritu 82).

In the Jewish community, marriage is the prospect for the future of the community. For a marriage to be binding in the society one has to marry a Jew who has similar faith, otherwise marriages to people of different faiths are considered void. The young Jewish are prepared for marriage through education and training. Later the young women and men who have been raised into adulthood are ready to look for life partners. “The locus of search will usually depend on family tradition or established groups patterns” (Bulka 4). The responsibility to find the right partner rests on the shoulders of prospective partners. The prospective partners are supposed to decide if they complement each other. This depends on the dimensions that they have been taught about marriage partners that lead to a harmonious unit.

Dating is a serious time because it will determine how one selects a suitable partner. A prospective partner is supposed to know his or her weakness so that “one can have a clear idea of which other will complement and complete the union” (Bulka 5). Partners are supposed to be honest. They should not project false images about themselves. This is encouraged so that the partners can see the true picture of their prospectus mate so that statements such as do not arise “the person I was engaged to be not the person I married” (Bulka 5).

Differences between selecting a mate now and 40-50 years ago

This is the twenty first century and the way of selecting life partners has changed. About 50 years ago arranged marriages were common and thus it was the parents or the community that selected a life partner. A person had no say in the kind of partner they would marry. Today many people have the freedom to choose their life partners. They meet their mates and introduce them to their parents and in most cases; the parents have to accept their children’s choices. However, this does not mean that people do not face opposition in their selections of mates. On the other hand, the increased freedom in selecting a mate has led to an increase in interracial marriages. For example, on one hand, in the United States 73 percent of white Americans disapproved of intermarriages in the 1970s , compared to 33 percent now” (Andersen and Taylor 394). On the other, 24 percent of blacks disapproved compared to 17 percent now. The trends have changed even though interracial marriages remain infrequent.

Today people select mates of the same sex. This was not common 50 years ago. Many gay and lesbian couples are visible today and some countries allow recognize same-sex unions. It is now common to find two men or women in love because the society has allowed these kinds of unions. Thus, the change has occurred because a person can select a partner from the same sex (Andersen and Taylor 405).

Race in mate selection

Race plays a major factor in mate selection. It is normal for people to choose mates who have a similar background. According to sociologists, people tend to marry within their race because some feel marrying outside the race would lead to loss of identity. This is because intermarriage “is the ultimate loss of social distance between the so-called races” (Andersen and Taylor 394). On the contrary, the attitude has changed and today there are more interracial marriages now.

Religion in mate selection

Religion is a major factor in selecting a life partner. People prefer to marry people who share similar faith. Some religions also prohibit the members from a marrying outside the religion. For example, in Judaism, people are encouraged to marry within the religion and marriages outside the religion are not considered legal. People prefer to marry within their religion because religious differences are often a huge cause of separation. In the catholic religion intermarriage is allowed as long as the non-catholic mate promises to convert later’ (Bustos and Espiritu 82).

In Islam, a man can marry a woman from a different faith because the woman is supposed to follow the husband. Whereas a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man as women are expected to follow the religion of their husbands (Bustos and Espiritu 82).

Educational background

Education background plays a role in mate selection. People tend to marry people with similar education backgrounds. Parents play a role in this case because they tend to send their children to selected institutions of learning so that their children can “interact with others who are homogamous to them” (Hamon and Ingoldsby 11). This is because people also tend to marry those people they interact with due to close proximity.

What is the best way to select mate according to researches?

Researches done recommend that people marry people who have similar life outlook and backgrounds. Marriages of such people have been found to be more successful (Lamanna and Riedmann 208). It is also important to marry someone who has good character traits such as responsible, fertile, reliable (Oliver, Robins and Pervin 39). One should select a mate there are compatible with because once the choice has been made and marriage takes place it is not easy to annul the union due to the emotional stress involved especially if there are kids (Oliver et al 39).

Why careful selection of mate is important for success of marriage?

Who is the right mate? Does one search for the right one, or does one search for a right one” (Bulka 6). Is there a right procedure to select a mate? Why is careful selection of a mate important for a successful marriage? When selecting for a mate we hope and pray that we make the right decision. It is also important to note that it is said that one gets the kind of mate they deserve. The type of a person one is dictating the kind of person they select as a mate and eventually the type of marriage they will have later. People “get out of marriage what they put in” but there are things that may increase the chances of a marriage being successful (Bulka 7).

Physical attractiveness is one of them. It is important that one be attracted to their partner physically before they think of getting married. Other people may say that physical attractiveness does not matter but it does. This is because it contributes to being comfortable with the other person as well as being proud of them. Therefore, prospective partners must consider their preferences such as height, weight or age. However, physical attractiveness should not be an overriding factor because one may be physically attractive yet “characterologically unfit” (Bulka 8).

Personal character should be considered. A life partner should have noble character. In fact, this criterion is “paramount even overriding importance” (Bulka 8). A person should look for a mate who is sensitive, responsible and kind. A person with such characters will make a good mate and the success of such a marriage is high because the partner is considerate due to their noble character. On the contrary, when one selects a partner who is deficient of character their marriage is doomed to fail. This is because one partner will end up being locked in misery.

Sometimes the family one comes from is important. The family is the “breeding ground for one’s values” (Bulka 9). Thus, a partner from stable and good parents is likely to exhibit similar qualities even this is not a guarantee.

How do societal factors impact selecting a partner?

The society has an influence when it comes to selecting a life partner. There are societal expectations that many seek to meet during their mate selection. Even in societies, which have embraced modernization the societal norms, are still influential in mate selection. Parents are able to influence their children’s choice of mates through open criticisms of the traits they do not like in their selected mates. In addition, people close to a person also influence ones choice of a mate. The peer group does this through praise or criticisms of the “possible choice of individual” (Bustos and Espiritu 81). In addition, “Parental image hypothesis” is a factor that influences mate selection. People are said to choose mates who are similar to their parents or kin. This is a psycho-analytic view based on the Oedipus Configuration” that supports notion of parent substitution (81).

As one grows up in a society, they are influenced by the norms of their society. Their behaviors as well as values are those that have been “internalized since childhood” (83). Therefore, when they grow up they seek people who have similar backgrounds.


Selecting a mate is crucial because one chooses a person with whom to become sexually as well as emotionally intimate with and raise children if the couple decides to have any. Therefore, selecting a mate is one of the major decisions that a human being has to make at one point in their life. Sociologists are concerned about the high rates of divorce especially in the United States. This has been attributed to martial mismatch. To avoid or reduce this problem proper mate selection must be done to ensure that there is stability in marriages.


The prospective mates need to learn one another to ensure they marry the kind of person they have in mind. A mate should have similar values and a positive attitude about marriage. He or she should be ready to make sacrifices for the family and support their spouse in the marriage. Falling in love is not enough to make a marriage work and this means that one needs to be very careful when selecting a life partner. When one is selecting a mate there are in “a marriage market” and should therefore bargain for the best “buy” possible.

Works Cited

Andersen, L, Margaret and Taylor, Howard Francis. Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. Connecticut: Cengage Learning, 2005.

Bulk, Reuven. Jewish Marriage: A Halakhic Ethic. USA: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1986. ISBN0881250775, 9780881250770

Bustos, A.S and Espiritu, S.C. Foundation of Education I. 2nd ed. Quezon: Goodwill Trading Co., Inc, n.d.

Dixon, Patricia. African American Relationships, Marriages, and Families: An Introduction. USA: CRC Press, 2006.

Hamon, R, Raeann and Ingoldsby, B. Bron. Mate Selection across Cultures. Thousand Oaks California: SAGE, 2003. ISBN0761925929, 9780761925927

Lamanna and Riedmann. Marriages and Families: Making Choices in a Diverse Society. 10th ed. New York: Cengage Learning, 2008. ISBN0495390925, 9780495390923

Oliver, P. John, Robins, W. Richards and Pervin, A. Lawrence. Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research. New York: Guilford Press, 2008. ISBN1593858361, 9781593858360

Reeves, Y Earl. “A Comparative Study of Mate Selection Criteria among Indians in India and The United States International.” Journal of Comparative Sociology, Vol. 27, No. 3-4 (1986):226-233 DOI: 10.1177/002071528602700308.

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