The ultimate blonde bombshell, Marilyn Monroe. They say that gentlemen prefer blondes – but it could depend on their mothers. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

London - They say that gentlemen prefer blondes – but it could depend on their mothers.

A study has found that we really do have a "type" when looking for love. However, it has more to do with our parents than personal preference.

Researchers who analysed hundreds of relationships found that men typically choose women with the same eye and hair colour as their mothers. Similarly, women pick men with the same features as their fathers – unless they grew up without them around.

Researchers from the Charles University in Prague looked at past and present relationships of almost 2 000 heterosexual adults.

They then compared the eye and hair colour of each partner to that of their opposite-sex parent. Both men and women tended to choose long-term partners – as opposed to flings – that had the same eye or hair colour as their parent of the opposite sex.

The link was strongest in cases where both parents had the same eye colour, the study found. It was weaker among women who did not live with their father while they were growing up. The researchers believe we may be subconsciously ‘imprinted’ from a young age to seek out partners that look like our parents.

Previous studies suggested this is because our parents are our first experience of a close relationship. In addition, eyes and hair are linked to a string of qualities as well as attractiveness.

A lack of grey hair can suggest good health, researchers say, while a smattering of greys can convey trustworthiness. Similarly, eye colour can depict a range of characteristics. 

By choosing long-term partners that look like a parent, there is more chance of producing children who appear similar to previous generations. This may be a subconscious evolutionary choice.

The Prague team wrote in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour: "It seems that when it comes to eye and hair colour, people do have their 'type' and non-randomly prefer a particular trait."