Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Jay D. Schvaneveldt


Jay D. Schvaneveldt


Shelley Lindauer


Jane McCullough


The use of exchange theory as it applies to human relations has escalated dramatically in the past 20 years. The present study applies exchange theory as the basis of mate selection in contemporary society. Whereas an actual barter system was used in the past and families played a major role in choosing prospective mates, participants in the mate selection process are not virtually on their own and must rely upon their own bargaining skills to present their assets on the marriage market. A number of characteristics are thought to enhance or detract from a person's "worth" on the marriage market. Over 900 college students from nine universities across the United States were surveyed in order to ascertain what they considered valuable in a potential mate, and important variables in the mate selection process were determined. Comparisons were made among gender, race, marital status, family size and configuration, socioeconomic status, religious orientation, and geographical region of the United States. The results indicate that important differences exist among the various groups concerning what characteristics enhance or detract from an individual's worth on the marriage market in contemporary America. Finally, it was determined that marital worth of individuals can theoretically be measured.