|Hey good looking!|
Whereas women who had a baby in the first year of marriage experienced a subsequent dip in their feelings of physical attractiveness, new fathers showed the opposite pattern. The feel-good effect was short-lived, however, as the men's raised feelings of physical attractiveness returned to normal levels by the end of the study.
For some reason, men who became a father for the first time in their second year of marriage did not enjoy a spike in physical self-appreciation, although there was a slight trend in that direction. New mothers in the second year did however experience a dip in their self-perceived beauty, just the same as the women who became mothers in the first year.
"Our research indicates that women believe that they are less physically attractive after the birth of a child," said the researchers, "but that men believe they are more physically attractive."
Unfortunately the study provides little evidence for why the participants felt differently about their appearance after having a baby. The researchers speculated that mothers may feel less attractive because of physical changes to their body, or because they have less time to pay attention to their appearance. Perhaps fathers feel more attractive because of an increased sense of masculinity. The researchers were able to rule out another suggestion - that participants' changed feelings of attractiveness were due to any change in their spouse's view of them.
Although this new research has only just been published, the data were actually collected in the early 90s, which places a question mark over whether the findings would replicate today. Moreover, the sample was predominantly White, US middle class and the results may only speak to that group. Indeed, Cast and her colleagues highlighted past research that suggested African American women perceive their bodies more positively after childbirth than White women.
Cast, A., Stewart, S., and Erickson, M. (2013). Why do men feel more attractive after childbirth? Journal of Gender Studies, 1-9 DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2012.750239
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.