Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Counseling and Human Development

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

Owen, Jesse

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Valentine, Jeffrey

Committee Member

Budge, Stephanie

Committee Member

Shuck, Brad


Mate selection--Psychological aspects; Online dating; Parental influences


Romantic attraction is commonly studied in the scientific literature, with countless theories providing hypotheses for why we find particular characteristics attractive. This study focused on psychodynamic theories to investigate the attraction process, particularly regarding the influence of parental figures on romantic attraction through the psychoanalytic theory of partner selection (i.e., template matching hypothesis used interchangeably), attachment theory, and Core Conflictual Relational Themes theory. With previous research often relying solely on self-report measures of parental figures and romantic partners, this study contributed to the field through capturing the attraction phenomenon through the ratings and selection of simulated online dating profiles. Participants (n = 88) completed two survey administrations, first providing self-report data of parental figures (e.g., parental personality traits, attachment styles) and personal characteristics (e.g., relationship status, depression symptomology, family environment). Information from the first survey was used to create two idiosyncratic dating profiles, one profile imitating personality and relational characteristics similar to one’s opposite-gender parent (titled the Alike profile) and one profile depicting dissimilar qualities of one’s opposite-gender parent (titled the Unalike profile). Two additional standard profiles representing a neutral and unbecoming option were also presented (titled the Neutral and Jerk profile respectively). Participants were asked a series of questions assessing the attractiveness of each profile option and then asked to rank the four profiles based on attractiveness. Results indicated that the Neutral profile was the most favorable among our sample, with the Alike profile being deemed the second most attractive option. Participants who reported experiencing betrayal trauma before age 18 were significantly less likely to select the Alike profile as the most attractive. In addition, participant reports of unfinished business (i.e., lingering feelings of disappointment or resentment) was the most salient predictor variable for Alike profile attraction ratings, suggesting that as unfinished business towards parental figures increased, attraction ratings for the Alike profile decreased. Perceived similarity to one’s parental figure also influenced attraction ratings for the Alike profile, potentially indicating that participants may have identified personal similarities with characteristics described in the profile. Limitations and implications are provided to highlight areas of future research.

Included in

Counseling Commons