Do young people and their parents really disagree about the qualities of a suitable mate? … A study involving Dutch, American and Kurdish students … found that the cliche is, in fact, true. Young Americans told the researchers that qualities they would find unappealing in a potential mate included low intelligence and physical unattractiveness. But they said their parents would object to a mate who was of a different ethnicity, was poor or lacked a good family background.
The responses of Dutch and Kurdish students were similar in that young people invariably considered the potential mate’s attractiveness the most important quality, whereas parents uniformly paid more attention to the suitors’ social background or group affiliation — race, religious background and social class.
[The authors] said the consistency of the conflict across cultures suggests the hand of evolution: Parents and offspring … genetic self-interests, while overlapping, are not identical. The reason young people care so much about intellectual and physical attractiveness, the scientists suggested, is that these characteristics are markers of genetic fitness. By contrast, they said, parents care about group affiliations because parents are primarily interested in whether an incoming member of the family is likely to make a good parent — and a good all-around team player.
There should indeed be some conflict between kids and parents on suitable spouses, but the size of the conflict seems surprisingly large – do parent and kid genetic interests really diverge that much? Here’s a graphic showing huge differences: