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The trophy wife is largely a stereotyped myth

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A "trophy wife" stereotype is largely a myth, says a new study, "Beauty and Status: The Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection?" published online June 9, 2014 in the American Sociological Review. If there's no such individual as a trophy wife, then there must be some stereotyped image of what all cultures consider beauty...or it is personality and charisma that's in demand? Successful men partner with successful women. And exceptionally beautiful women usually partner with men considered to have good looks.

Some couples have both exceptionally attractive looks and lots of money, and they find each other, usually because they travel in similar circles or attend conferences and/or vacations in similar environments. Are people more influenced by movies that show pretty women discovered working in retail or offices by their bosses and end up married for the next several decades? Sure, it happens, but how often?

The new research asks the public not to judge

Most people are familiar with the "trophy wife" stereotype that attractive women marry rich men, placing little importance on their other traits, including physical appearance, and that men look for pretty wives but don't care about their education or earnings. The new research, however, by University of Notre Dame Sociologist Elizabeth McClintock, shows the trophy wife stereotype is largely a myth fueled by selective observation that reinforces sexist stereotypes and trivializes women's careers.

In the study McClintock resolves the paradox between the trophy wife stereotype and the evidence that couples match on both physical attractiveness and socioeconomic status, according to the June 17, 2014 news release, "'Trophy wife' stereotype is largely a myth, new study shows." Using, for the first time, a nationally representative sample of young couples in which both partners were interviewed and rated for physical attractiveness, McClintock was able to control for matching on attractiveness.

Gold diggers and 'green' card seekers

Is it true powerful men usually marry wives with PhDs or wives who are wealthy entrepreneurs rather than 'gold diggers' sometimes referred to in the media as trophy wives who trade their beauty or plastic surgeries for powerful, brilliant husbands with high income or income potential such as inventors, CEOs, diplomats, or entrepreneurs -- in order to become known in the media as a hostess with the mostest? The trophy wife is largely a stereotyped myth.

Just check out the backgrounds of women married to the wealthiest and most powerful men or the most intelligent inventors and scientists. Seems every time there's a major economic depression, there arises movies or media about gold diggers and giggolos. You may wish to see articles such as: "How do successful men in Los Angeles meet their trophy wives." Or check out, "Trophy Wives Insist It's Not Enough To Just Be Pretty Anymore." Then there's articles such as "Wealthy Doctor's Young Trophy Wife Squanders All Of His Money, Shocking Absolutely No One."

She says prior research in this area has ignored two important factors

"I find that handsome men partner with pretty women and successful men partner with successful women," says McClintock, according to the news release. McClintock specializes in inequality within romantic partnerships. "So, on average, high-status men do have better-looking wives, but this is because they themselves are considered better looking--perhaps because they are less likely to be overweight and more likely to afford braces, nice clothes and trips to the dermatologist, etc. Secondly, the strongest force by far in partner selection is similarity — in education, race, religion and physical attractiveness."

McClintock's research shows that there is not, in fact, a general tendency for women to trade beauty for money. That is not to say trophy wife marriages never happen, just that they are very rare. "Donald Trump and his third wife Melania Knauss-Trump may very well exemplify the trophy wife stereotype," McClintock says in the news release. "But, there are many examples of rich men who partner with successful women rather than 'buying' a supermodel wife.

The two men who founded Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) both married highly accomplished women—one has a PhD and the other is a wealthy entrepreneur." McClintock says the trophy wife stereotype is most often wrongly-applied among non- celebrities

"I've heard doctors' wives referred to as trophy wives by observers who only notice her looks and his status and fail to realize that he is good-looking too and that she is also a successful professional--or was before she had kids and left her job," McClintock says, according to the news release. You also may wish to check out the article, "Would you marry a Doctor? - pg.10 | allnurses." Or see, "Your Doctor's Wife: The Trophy Wife."

McClintock's research also indicates that, contrary to the trophy wife stereotype, social class barriers in the marriage market are relatively impermeable. Beautiful women are unlikely to leverage their looks to secure upward mobility by marriage. Some men do ask on the first date, though, what the woman's dad does for a living with a notion to set him up in business or pay his medical/graduate school tuition, if the woman he's dating has no income, is a poor college student, or is very young. The stereotype of trophy wives also maintains the stereotype that if you're a trophy wife, you need to also have a 'sexy' pregnancy, if you're having children rather than adopting or hiring a surrogate, buying eggs and sperm, and producing a 'trophy' family--at least in media myth stereotype vision.

And other potential husbands may simply want to marry someone with the citizenship of any given country where he prefers to live...including the reason that he can get a job in that country. Some men or women who marry for citizenship in a place of his or her choice have been known to borrow money from the future or present spouse's relatives to set up a business, then when the husband (or wife) gets citizenship papers, he or she promptly divorces the spouse, goes back home, and in many cases cleans out the bank account, sells the home, and takes the children.

You may wish to check out how many cases the State Department has on file with this type of scenario. You may wish to see the website, "International Parental Child Abduction - Bureau of Consular Affairs." Gold diggers can be male or female. But generally people of high status look for a mate with similar interests and achievements rather than beauty alone, although the stereotype is that powerful, rich men can have beautiful women, and women without beauty and youth need cash.

If you wish to check out the new study's abstract, you can read how scholars have long been interested in exchange and matching (assortative mating) in romantic partner selection. The study analyzes research that shows how studies that examine beauty and socioeconomic status, fail to control for partners’ tendency to match each other on these traits.

Desirable traits in mates are positively correlated between partners and within individuals

What happens when researchers ignore matching? The result could be an exaggeration of evidence of cross-trait beauty-status exchange, what scientists would look at in a study. The new study's abstract mentions that many prior analyses assume a gendered exchange in which women trade beauty for men’s status, without testing whether men might use handsomeness to attract higher-status women.

And prior analyses haven't fully investigated how the prevalence of beauty-status exchange varies between different types of couples. What's new in the research study is that the scientist uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health Romantic Pair Sample, a large (N = 1,507), nationally representative probability sample of dating, cohabiting, and married couples, to investigate how often romantic partners exchange physical attractiveness and socioeconomic status, net of matching on these traits.

That's important in the new study because the researcher found that controlling for matching eliminates nearly all evidence of beauty-status exchange. The discussion part of the new study also focuses on the contexts in which beauty-status exchange is most likely and on implications these results have for market-based and sociobiological theories of partner selection, according to the study's abstract, you may wish to check out, "Beauty and Status: The Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection?"

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