College Guys More Romantic Than Gals

The romantic guy might be found right on our college campuses.

A recent study finds male undergraduate students were more likely than women to choose intimate relationships over their careers and education.

While the results seem to contradict stereotypical notions of gender roles (women choose family and men choose high-powered jobs), perhaps it's a case of how "romance" is defined. Do guys equate a romantic relationship with a chance to get lucky?

"It is ambiguous what this romantic relationship means," said Daniel Kruger, a social and evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study. "Is this an investment in a relationship that marriage and having children would take, or are guys seeing this as basically a mating opportunity?"


Catherine Mosher of Duke University's Medical Center and Sharon Danoff-Burg of the University of Albany in New York surveyed 237 undergraduate students (80 men, 157 women) aged 16 to 25 years.

The questionnaires measured the importance students placed on achievements and different types of relationships (romantic relationship, marriage, children, circle of friends, family ties). Achievement goals included: physical fitness, travel, financial success, home ownership, contribution to society, career and education. Survey items also assessed students' willingness to sacrifice these goals for romance.

Both male and female students showed strong desires for individual achievement and intimate relationships.

Overall, 61 percent of the guys chose a romantic relationship rather than achievement goals, while 51 percent of gals chose romance. The boys and men were particularly more likely to swap a career, education and traveling for "charming companions."

More specifically, just 20 percent of female students chose romantic relationships over careers, specifically, while about 35 percent of the males picked romance. About 15 percent of females said they would ditch education for romance compared with nearly 30 percent of male respondents.

"I think that those are the issues in which people find tension often in real life, between having a career and making time for relationships," Mosher told LiveScience.

Guys will be guys

Rather than revealing guys' romantic sides, the results could support the view that guys think with their…

"Maybe for the men they're thinking close romantic relationship, but that doesn't necessarily mean long-term commitment of getting married and having children," Kruger said.

Kruger also pointed out that evolutionarily, guys tried to achieve high-status positions to ensure better mating opportunities. "So in a way it's kind of like saying, you're doing all this stuff to strive for something, but if you can get that 'thing' without additional striving, wouldn’t you?" Kruger explained.

The study researchers, however, suggest female students in the study may have been so strongly committed to success along career paths they were hesitant to drop these goals for romantic relationships.

As to why romance ruled for male students, the study researchers noted that unlike women, men seem to derive more emotional support from their opposite-sex relationships than from same-sex pals.

The survey results, which the authors say apply to college students and not to the overall population, will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Gender Issues.

Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.