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Relationships are believed to be more about love, understanding, and commitment. However, a recent research opens up doors for other possibilities as well. It hints at how fear of domestic violence can influence the kind of man a woman might like.

The new study shows women prefer more feminine men because they are afraid of violence in relationships.

The research, carried out by scientists at the University of St Andrews, has come to this conclusion after asking 83 heterosexual women participants to complete a questionnaire related to their health, access to media, education, feelings of danger from public violence and the likelihood of violence within a relationship.

The participants were then asked to select which male faces they considered more attractive from pairs manipulated to differ in masculinity level.

They found that domestic violence had a significant effect on women's masculinity preferences. When women had higher perceptions of risk for domestic violence in their surroundings, their masculinity preferences were lower. No other factor/variable significantly predicted women's masculinity preferences.

According to MedicalXpress, Martha Lucia Borras-Guevara, who led the research, said: "We found that even after controlling for participant age, education, access to media (TV and internet) and health, violence within partnership had a large influence on masculinity preferences."

The researchers noted that previous studies suggested masculine men might be protectors for women against public violence. But the studies ignored the fact that women can be at more risk of domestic violence in that case.

Professor David Perrett, who runs the Perception Lab at the University's School of Psychology and Neuroscience — where the study was carried out — said: "Our prior work indicated that those fearing violence did not like masculinity but our early studies did not clearly differentiate what mattered most — fear of violence in the home or in fear of violence in public places. The current study clearly shows that it is worried about domestic violence that shapes partner preferences".

Dr Carlota Batres, who also co-led the research, said: "Preferring more feminine men may reflect a strategy of women to avoid partners who are more likely to behave aggressively and dangerously towards them, that is, more masculine partners."

The research was published in the Journal of Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.