ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (7): 857-866.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00857

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The influence of childhood stress and mortality threat on mating standards

WANG Jiaying1; CHEN Bin-Bin2   

  1. (1 Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, U.S.A.) (2 Department of Psychology, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China)
  • Received:2015-07-03 Published:2016-07-25 Online:2016-07-25
  • Contact: CHEN Bin-Bin, E-mail:


Life history theory focuses on interpreting organisms’ trade-off in the allocation of limited resource. Research shows that the childhood stress influences an individual’s life history strategies. Based on previous literature, this experiment investigated the interaction effect of childhood stress and current environment stress on men’s and women’s mating standards. Participants were 70 Chinese undergraduate students (59 females, 11 males) with ages ranging from 17 to 23 (M = 19.37, SD = 1.16). In the mortality threat condition, participants were primed by reading a news article on the recent increases in random violence and mortality in the country. In the control condition, participants were asked to read a paper about a person spending hours searching for the lost key in an afternoon. The two passages were similar in length and style and elicited similar levels of general arousal. Mating standards and childhood stress were measured by self-report scales. A series of independent-sample t-test results showed that with regard to resource, women’s standard was higher than men’s and single participants had lower mating standard than those in a relationship. After controlling gender and relationship status, regression analysis showed that the interaction effect only existed on the mating standard for physical attractiveness. Specifically, the participants with higher childhood stress showed significantly lower mating standard for physical attractiveness in the mortality condition than in the control condition, whereas the participants with less childhood stress showed higher mating standard for physical attractiveness in the mortality condition than in the control condition. Further, the participants with mortality prime had higher standard for good parent than the ones in the control group. No main or interaction effects were found on the mating standard for resource. The results indicated that the childhood stress and cues to environmental harshness might influence the mating standards, but they might have different impact on different mating standards.

Key words: mortality threat, childhood stress, mating standards, life history strategy, evolutionary psychology