Nice Guys (and Girls) Do Not Finish Last in Love Relationships, UC Davis Study Finds

Quick Summary

  • Most of the time, youth have crushes or pursue members of the opposite sex whom their peers approve of and don’t pursue those their friends don’t like
  • Empathy viewed as crush-worthy
  • Aggressive behavior negates romantic desirability

If you want a member of the opposite sex to have a romantic interest in you, it’s best to be charming, empathetic and popular, not aggressive, according to a University of California, Davis, study of early adolescent relationships.

Most of the time, youth have crushes on or pursue members of the opposite sex whom their peers approve of and don’t pursue those their friends don’t like, the study found.

“What was particularly interesting about these findings is that empathy — feeling and understanding of another person’s emotional state — was viewed as ‘crush-worthy,’ especially when paired with being well-liked by the peer group,” said Adrienne Nishina, an associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology who co-authored the study.

“Somehow youth were able to pick up on these internal feelings and found them romantically desirable.”

“Also, for these adolescents in their early middle school years,” she added, “aggressive behavior actually negated the romantic desirability of being popular.  This appears to be in contrast to later in adolescence, when aggression and popularity are more strongly intertwined.”

A caveat to the study: questions were focused on crushes, explained Nishina, “which reflect their ideal or desired partners — and not actual dating relationships.”

Nishina studies adolescent mental and physical well-being, peer relations, and ethnic diversity in school settings. The lead author of the study, former UC Davis graduate student Andrew Bower, is now a postdoctoral fellow at Texas Tech University.

Researchers studied a sample of 531 sixth-grade students attending ethnically diverse middle schools in California and Oregon. The adolescents self-reported their crushes or romantic feelings about members of the opposite sex. Same-sex relationships were not part of the study.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of Youth Adolescence

The study found that some adolescent behavior can be predictive of adult behavior in romantic relationships.

“When making long-term romantic decisions, adults choose partners based on a range of desirable preferences, taking multiple traits into consideration, rather than focusing on a single trait,” the study concluded. “This diversity in partner preference may be traced back to early adolescent romantic desires, and potentially peer group consensus of which behaviors are attractive or not.”

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