Problem Statement: The selection of a marital partner has lifelong implications. Therefore, researchers from various cultures and disciplines have examined individuals’ mate selection behaviors with respect to a rich variety of variables. Literature on mate selection, involves a host of factors, such as gender, religious belief, ethnicity, political orientation and level of education. However, only a few studies with Turkish samples have examined different aspects of mate selection. Political orientation and religious belief are sensitive issues in Turkey. Thus, there is a lack of empirical work on these issues by researchers in the field of psychological counseling and guidance. Individual views and preferences on marital partnership may be significantly influenced by either of these two factors. An examination of mate selection preferences within a Turkish sample will not only contribute to the growing national literature on mate selection, but provide substance for multicultural comparison, as well as insight for counseling practice.
The purpose of the study: This study sought to determine whether senior-year college students’ criteria for selecting marital partners varied significantly according to gender, religious belief and political orientation.
Methods: A total of 1,126 senior students attending Hacettepe University were given surveys. Seven-hundred thirty-two (65%) were women, and 394 (35%) were men. Participants’ political orientation was as follows: 43% (485) identified as left-wing, 23.6% (266) as right-wing and 2% (22) with Islamist politics, whereas 31.4% did not ascribe to any political views. Students’ religious beliefs were as follows: 80.8% Sunni, 17.1% Alevi and 2.1% other (Christian, Jewish, etc.). All participants were single and were considering marriage in the near future. The study was conducted in three phases. One involved asking a convenient sample of 168 college students the open-ended question: “What are the characteristics you look for in a marital partner? Please list your answers.” A revision of this list resulted in a new list of 56 attributes with the highest frequencies. The second step involved giving the new list, based on a 10-point Likert type scale (1= Not desirable at all, 10= Very desirable), to 217 students. Students’ responses were examined with principle component analysis, which resulted in a list of 33 adjectives. The final step of the study involved administering this new survey, with questions on students’ age, gender, political orientation and religious belief, to a new sample of 1,126 students. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) (with principle components as the factor extraction procedure), ANOVA and Scheffe’s test were used for data analysis.
Findings and Results: Analysis yielded four factor asimportant qualities sought in potential marital partners – namely, personality characteristics, family relations, power and attractiveness and similarity/conventionality. Female students scored higher on three of the four factors (personality characteristics, power and attractiveness and similarity/conventionality) than males. Female students placed higher value on almost all characteristics examined, while both males and females had considerably high scores for each attribute. Students’ of rightwing political orientation scored significantly higher on family relations and similarity/conventionality than their leftwing peers. No differences were found between the group with no political views and those with right- or left-wing views. Students raised in Sunni families scored higher on all four factors than those who grew up in Alevi families. The students with “other belief systems” were excluded from analysis, due to their possible heterogeneity and relatively smaller numbers.
Conclusions and Recommendations: A clear difference between the findings of this study and those of studies of Western cultures is that participants in this study appeared to be more particular about the qualities they sought in marital partners. One limitation of the current study has to do with its reliance on self-report measures. Considering that the study was conducted with senior college students at only one university in Turkey, any generalization of the results should be done with caution. Further work with diverse samples and cross-sectional studies would be helpful in obtaining more inclusive insight into the mate selection preferences of individuals in Turkey. The results of this study could be tentatively taken as an impetus for university counseling centers to tailor interventions targeting students’ idealized views of marital partners.
Keywords: Mate selection, college students, gender, religious belief, political orientation.