But how legitimate is this rule? Does it match our scientific understanding of age-related preferences for dating? Does it always apply? How well does the rule reflect scientific evidence for age preferences? Researchers Buunk and colleagues asked men and women to identify the ages they would consider when evaluating someone for relationships of different levels of involvement. People reported distinct age preferences for marriage ; a serious relationship; falling in love ; casual sex ; and sexual fantasies.
Based on the figures Buunk and colleagues provided and thus the numbers are only informed approximations , I replotted their data superimposing the max and min age ranges defined by the half-your-age-plus-7 rule. You can see that men are basically operating by the rule for minimum age preferences for marital relationships blue bars and serious dating relationships yellow bars. Those age preferences consistently hover around the values denoted by the rule the black line.
If anything, in practice men are more conservative when it comes to preferred marriage, preferring a minimum age higher than the rule would say is OK. Male Participants' Minimum Preferred Partner Age as Compared to the Rule When it comes to sexual fantasies, however, men have minimum age preferences that are younger than the rule would designate appropriate. For example, this sample of year-old men report that it is acceptable to fantasize about women in their 20s, which the rule would say is unacceptable.
But fantasies, of course, are not generally subject to public scrutiny and the rule is only designed to calculate what is socially acceptable in the public eye—so this discrepancy is not necessarily a failure of the rule. For rule-related involvement e. The rule states that you can calculate maximum acceptable partner ages by subtracting seven from your own age and multiplying it by 2.
Of all those couples surveyed, the biggest age difference was 58 years. I took a closer look at that particular case and found a year-old man married to a year-old woman. The age gap in your relationship might not look so big now, especially when you consider that 1 percent of heterosexual couples have an age difference of 28 years or more.
Hope the numbers help, Andrew Flowers and Ben Casselman contributed analysis. Have a question you would like answered here? Send it to MonaChalabi or dearmona fivethirtyeight. Mona Chalabi is data editor at the Guardian US, and a columnist at New York Magazine. She was previously a lead news writer for FiveThirtyEight. Using the same pathogen-stress model we see a lower prevalence of disease in these economically developed areas, and therefore a reduced stress on reproduction for survival.
Additionally, it is common to see monogamous relationships widely in more modern societies as there are more women in the marriage market and polygamy is illegal throughout most of Europe and the United States. As access to education increases worldwide, the age of marriage increases with it, with more of the youth staying in education for longer.
The mean age of marriage in Europe is well above 25, and averaging at 30 in Nordic countries, however this may also be due to the increase of cohabitation in European countries. Social Structural Origin Theory argues that the underlying cause of sex-differentiated behaviour is the concentration of men and women in differing roles in society. It has been argued that a reason gender roles are so prevalent in society is that the expectations of gender roles can become internalised in a person's self-concept and personality.
Women and men tend to seek a partner that will fit in with their society's sexual division of labour. For example, a marital system based on males being the provider and females the domestic worker, favours an age gap in the relationship. An older male is more likely to have more resources to provide to the family and a younger female is more likely to have less status or resources and so therefore will be these in a relationship, therefore lending the younger female to be more suited to the domestic worker role in the relationship.
The picture often displays a stereotypical pairing of a divorced, middle-aged, white, affluent female dating a younger male with the relationship taking the form of a non-commitment arrangement between the partners. Sexual double standards in society may be one particular reason as to why women do not exhibit as many age-hypogamous relationships in comparison to age-hypergamous relationships.
Age disparity in sexual relationships
What’s the perfect age gap for an ideal relationship?
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