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Fear: Women Who Feel At Risk Prefer More Dominant Partners

First Posted: Feb 26, 2016 02:04 PM EST

Women who feel more at risk of crime may also prefer more physically dominant partners (PPFDM), according to a recent study.

While previous research has suggested that women who grow up in high-crime areas crave more dominant partners for protection, researchers at the University of Leicester found that women who are attracted to dominant men are more likely to feel at risk of victimization - despite the fact that the risk among study participants was actually very low.

"PPFDM appears to be associated with women's self-assessed vulnerability. Women with strong PPFDM feel relatively more at risk, fearful, and vulnerable to criminal victimisation compared to their counterparts, regardless of whether there are situational risk factors present," Hannah Ryder from the University of Leicester's Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour, said in a news release. "Our research suggests that the relationship between feelings of vulnerability, as measured by fear of crime, and women's preference for physically formidable and dominant mates is stable, and does not update according to environmental circumstances or relative level of protection needed."

The research specifically focused on two studies in which women were asked to observe images and real life situations that exhibited varied risks for crime; these included hotspots and safespots, with examples of robbery and sexual assault. Then, participants were asked to rate their perceived risk of victimization. Both studies also included a scale that was administered to measure the women's PPFDM and assess the association between women's PPFDM score and their risk perception scores.

Findings showed that the participant's fear of crime differed based on crime cues, including location and time of day. Furthermore, this overall fear of crime was related to PPFDM. However, the relationship between PPFDM and fear did not vary regarding risk situation, perpetrator gender or crime type. This suggests that the "psychological mechanisms underlying the relationship between perceived risk of victimisation and PPFDM are general in nature," according to the study.

The study was published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior

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