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Women More Likely Than Men to Reject Unattractive Babies

Study casts doubt on notion of moms' unconditional love

WEDNESDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- Women are more likely than men to look away from less-than-cute babies, according to a study that challenges the idea of a mother's unconditional love.

The findings might reflect an evolutionary-based need to provide limited resources only to healthy offspring, suggest the researchers, from Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.

"Our study shows how beauty can affect parental attitudes," study senior author Dr. Igor Elman, director of the hospital's clinical psychopathology laboratory and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release from the hospital. "It shows women are more invested in raising healthy babies and that they are more prone to reject unattractive kids."

The study included 13 men and 14 women who were shown photos of 80 infants, including 50 normal ones and 30 with abnormal facial features, and asked to score them on attractiveness.

The men's attractiveness ratings for normal babies were much lower than those given by women, whereas women and men gave abnormal faces similar unattractive ratings. However, women made a greater effort to avoid looking at the unattractive faces.

The findings suggest that a woman's parental love may be "determined by facial attractiveness," study first author Rinah Yamamoto said in the news release. "Women may be more sensitized to aesthetic defects and may be more prone to reject unattractive kids. Men do not appear to be as motivated. They didn't expend the same effort."

The study appears online June 24 in the journal PLoS One.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers a guide for first-time parents.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: McLean Hospital, news release, June 23, 2009

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