The Hugh Grant effect! Women find men more attractive when they see them with children, study finds

If early 2000s rom-coms taught us anything, it’s that men are supposed to become instantly more attractive the moment they start looking after a child. 

But while this might seem like classic big screen fiction – seen in films like ‘About a Boy’ starring Hugh Grant – there may be some truth behind this classic trope.  

Scientists at Leiden University in the Netherlands have found that women rated men as much more attractive when they saw them with children. 

The scientists say this could be due to an evolutionary preference for men who have the traits needed to become good fathers. 

Lead author Professor Peter Bos told MailOnline: ‘In evolutionary terms it makes sense, when you want to raise a kid, you need a partner that can help you.’

In the 2002 romcom About a Boy, Hugh Grant stars as a man who pretends to have a child in order to get dates. This may seem like movie magic, but scientists now say there could be some truth behind this trope

In the 2002 romcom classic About a Boy, Will (played by Hugh Grant) pretends to have a child and joins single-parent meetings in the hope of meeting women. 

This might have worked on the silver screen, but whether this strategy would really pay off had never been scientifically studied – until now. 

To see if looking after a kid really does boost men’s chances of getting a date, Professor Bos and his co-author PhD candidate Hannah Spencer, tested the reactions of 360 women in experiments.

First, the women were shown pictures of men either by themselves or interacting with a children in caregiving tasks before being asked to rate the men’s attractiveness on a scale of 1-100. 

Next, they were asked to read a vignette describing men taking part in either caring or non-caring activities before rating their attractiveness. 

While there was no difference in attractiveness in the read description, women rated the pictures of men as significantly more attractive when they included a child. 

While many people may believe that men are more attractive when they are seen to look after children, such as Ryan Reynolds in Definitely Maybe, this had not previously been tested scientifically

While many people may believe that men are more attractive when they are seen to look after children, such as Ryan Reynolds in Definitely Maybe, this had not previously been tested scientifically

Additionally, the researchers also tested the participants for their ‘nurturance motivation’ – a measure of the motivation for parental care. 

They found that the effect was more pronounced in women with a high nurturance motivation or who said they wanted children. 

What’s more, the menstrual cycle also appeared to have an effect on how attractive women found the pictured men.

Overall, women in the ovulation phase found men more attractive, both pictured with children and without children. 

Professor Bos explains that being seen with kids, and especially being seen to be good with kids, ‘signals interest in caregiving and trustworthiness’. 

And it seems the findings have real-world evidence; on forums like Mumsnet and Reddit, women share their enthusiasm for men who are good with children. 

Researchers have now found that women rate men as significantly more attractive when they are seen with a child. This means there could be some truth in romcoms like Ben Affleck's Jersey Girl (pictured)

Researchers have now found that women rate men as significantly more attractive when they are seen with a child. This means there could be some truth in romcoms like Ben Affleck’s Jersey Girl (pictured)

In one post on Mumsnet, a commenter wrote: ‘Seeing a man being soft with his kids is so attractive, same as if they are cuddling a kitten or a puppy.

While one poster on Reddit wrote: ‘Him being a potentially good father to our future kids. Super hot.’

Others pointed out that being good with kids was also a sign of a personality that might make a man a good partner for a relationship.

One Reddit poster wrote: ‘Traits that make someone “good with kids” are generally good traits to have in a relationship: empathetic, kind fun, can put someone else’s needs before their own.’ 

There are even sites dedicated to gathering pictures of hot dads with their kids, such as the Instagram page ‘DILFS Of Disneyland’ which claims to bring you ‘the hottest dads at Disneyland & California Adventure’. 

On Mumsnet, many commenters shared their view that men were more attractive when they were seen to be good with children

On Mumsnet, many commenters shared their view that men were more attractive when they were seen to be good with children

On Reddit, one commenter explained that this attraction was due to seeing someone as a potential father to their future children

On Reddit, one commenter explained that this attraction was due to seeing someone as a potential father to their future children 

Others maintained that being good with kids was a sign of traits which would be good in any relationship

Others maintained that being good with kids was a sign of traits which would be good in any relationship 

This effect is so widespread that there are even pages dedicated to hot men with kids, such as the Instagram page 'DILFS of Disneyland'

This effect is so widespread that there are even pages dedicated to hot men with kids, such as the Instagram page ‘DILFS of Disneyland’ 

And with 395,000 followers and over 1,300 posts, the page has clearly tapped into something appealing. 

The researchers suggest that this enthusiasm for men with children could be explained by something called ‘parental investment theory’. 

This theory suggests that since females have a greater biological investment in their offspring through pregnancy, they tend to prefer partners that offer resources and protection.

Scientists use this to explain why animals like birds tend to select for males with traits that show an ability for territorial defence and competition.

Among humans, this might also help explain why women are more attractive to men who show themselves to be good carers.  

Since raising a child is so difficult, women may have an evolutionary disposition to be attracted to men displaying traits indicative of fitness as a parent. 

Professor Bos explains: ‘Humans were never meant to be raised by a single adult, it is simply too intense.’ 

With 395,000 followers and over 1,300 posts, this page dedicated to dads with their kids appears to have found an enthusiastic audience

With 395,000 followers and over 1,300 posts, this page dedicated to dads with their kids appears to have found an enthusiastic audience 

However, Redditors still said they found it weird when people included pictures of themselves with children in their dating app pictures, especially if they are not the man's children

However, Redditors still said they found it weird when people included pictures of themselves with children in their dating app pictures, especially if they are not the man’s children 

For many who don't want kids themselves, seeing a man with children can be off-putting

For many who don’t want kids themselves, seeing a man with children can be off-putting 

Professor Bos it’s ‘ironic’ given how many men appear to be posting images of themselves with children to seem more appealing, despite not wanting kids. 

Although the study didn’t look at dating apps, anecdotal evidence suggests pictures of kids in your profile is ‘really weird’ and ‘an instant swipe left’.

However, Professor Bos says that not every man appears to have gotten the message.

He says: ‘I heard from women that guys put up pictures with children on dating sites and Tinder, and I was surprised why they would do that, even if they were not looking for a steady relationship.’

Ultimately, no matter how appealing someone might be based on a photo of them with a child, Professor Bos still advises caution. 

He says: ‘Don’t trust pictures alone, but make sure your date is actually a caring person, and if you want kids, make sure he is motivated to invest in being a great and available father for his children.’ 

ARE MEN WITH SHORT AND WIDE FACES MORE LIKELY TO CHEAT?

Researchers from Nipissing University in Canada looked at how different facial features affect sexual behaviours.

The study involved 314 undergraduate students who were in romantic relationships.

Each student completed a questionnaire about their behaviour, sex drive, sexual orientation, the chances they’d consider cheating, and how comfortable they were with the concept of casual sex.

The researchers also took a picture of each student to analyse their facial width-to-height ratios (FWHR).

Scientists have found that men and women with short and wide faces are more sexually motivated and likely to cheat than people with faces of other dimensions. Pictured is footballer, Wayne Rooney, who has previously cheated on his wife, Coleen

Scientists have found that men and women with short and wide faces are more sexually motivated and likely to cheat than people with faces of other dimensions. Pictured is footballer, Wayne Rooney, who has previously cheated on his wife, Coleen

The results showed that men and women with a high FWHR – square and wide faces – reported a greater sex drive than others.

Men with a larger FWHR were also more easy-going when it comes to casual sex and would consider being unfaithful to their partners.

The researchers hope the findings will shed light on the role that facial features play in sexual relationships and mate selection.

Their research builds upon previous studies that have shown that certain psychological and behavioural traits are associated with particular facial width-to-height ratios (FWHR).

Square-faced men tend to be perceived as more aggressive, more dominant, more unethical, and more attractive as short-term sexual partners than men with thinner and longer faces. 

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