WOMEN who think that men are dangerous to their children prefer more feminine male partners, according to new research from the University of St Andrews.

The study, carried out by scientists at the university’s School of Psychology and Neuroscience Perception Lab, found that the more women agree with the statement “men are dangerous to their children”, the more they preferred less masculine male faces.

The work, published this week by the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, is the first to find that women’s face preferences are influenced by experiences and perceptions of violence.

The study measured the preferences of men and women from the capital city of Colombia, Bogota, and surrounding small towns, and also asked them several questions related to health, access to media, education, and exposure to violence.

Colombia was chosen as the test site because it is one of the most violent nations in the world; in 2012, its homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants was 30.8 compared to 1.0 in the UK. The research was carried out by scientists Martha Lucia Borras-Guevara, Dr Carlota Batres and Professor David Perrett.

Borras-Guevara, who led the research, said: “We found that men and women who strongly believed that men are dangerous to their children preferred less masculine male faces, although this effect was only significant for women. We might have only found a significant effect for women’s preferences since women, relative to men, invest more time and energy in their offspring, hence there would be a strong selective pressure to recognise any facial cues in men that relate to a violent or dangerous disposition.”

Batres added: “More masculine men have been found to be more aggressive and therefore, in places where partner violence is high, women would benefit from preferring more feminine male partners.”