As people have chosen to marry later, the age differences between couples have increased as well. In a Brown University study, it has been noted that the social structure of a country determines the age difference between spouses more than any other factor. These differences may be sexual, financial or social in nature.
Gender roles may complicate this even further. Socially, a society with a difference in wealth distribution between older and younger people may affect the dynamics of the relationship. Although the " cougar " theme, in which older women date much younger men, is often portrayed in the media as a widespread and established facet of modern Western culture, at least one academic study has found the concept to be a "myth".
A British psychological study published in Evolution and Human Behavior in concluded that men and women, in general, continued to follow traditional gender roles when searching for mates. The study found that, as supported by other academic studies, most men preferred younger, physically attractive women, while most women, of any age, preferred successful, established men their age or older.
The study found very few instances of older women pursuing much younger men and vice versa. The evolutionary approach, based on the theories of Charles Darwin , attempts to explain age disparity in sexual relationships in terms of natural selection and sexual selection. Parental Investment Theory refers to the value that is placed on a potential mate based on reproductive potential and reproductive investment.
The theory predicts that preferred mate choices have evolved to focus on reproductive potential and reproductive investment of members of the opposite sex.
How Young is Too Young to Date?
However, human males tend to have more parental investment compared to mammal males although females still tend to have more parental investment. These two theories explain why natural and sexual selection acts slightly differently on the two sexes so that they display different preferences. For example, different age preferences may be a result of sex differences in mate values assigned to the opposite sex at those ages.
A study conducted by David Buss investigated sex differences in mate preferences in 37 cultures with 10, participants. In all 37 cultures it was found that males preferred females younger than themselves and females preferred males older than themselves. These age preferences were confirmed in marriage records with males marrying females younger than them and vice versa.
As well as asking participants a number of questions on mate selection criteria, they also had to provide the oldest and youngest partner they would accept. It was found that for all ages males were willing to accept females that are slightly older than they are on average 4. Females demonstrate a complementary pattern, being willing to accept considerably older males on average 8 years older and were also willing to accept males slightly younger than themselves on average 5 years younger.
This is somewhat different to our close evolutionary relatives: Male chimpanzees tend to prefer older females than younger and it is suggested that specific cues of female mate value are very different to humans. Buss attributed the male preference for younger females to certain youthful cues. In females, relative youth and physical attractiveness which males valued more compared to females demonstrated cues for fertility and high reproductive capacity. Teenage males also report that their ideal mates would be several years older than themselves.
Buss and Schmitt  stress that although long-term mating relationships are common for humans, there are both short-term and long-term mating relationships. Buss and Schmitt provided a Sexual Strategies Theory that describes the two sexes as having evolved distinct psychological mechanisms that underlie the strategies for short- and long-term mating. This theory is directly relevant and compatible with those two already mentioned, Life History and Parental Investment.
As they are the higher-investing sex, females tend to be slightly more demanding when picking a mate as predicted by parental investment theory. In contrast to above, in short-term mating, females will tend to favour males that demonstrate physical attractiveness, as this displays cues of 'good genes'. Cross-culturally, research has consistently supported the trend in which males prefer to mate with younger females, and females with older males.
Analysing the results further, cross culturally, the average age females prefer to marry is Males however prefer to marry when they are The results from the study therefore show that the mean preferred marriage age difference 3. The preferred age of females is However, in some regions of the world there is a substantially larger age gap between marriage partners in that males are much older than their wife or wives.
A theory that can explain this finding from an evolutionary perspective is the parasite-stress theory which explains that an increase of infectious disease can cause humans to evolve selectively according to these pressures. Evidence also shows that as disease risk gets higher, it puts a level of stress on mating selection and increases the use of polygamy. Table 2 shows that 17 of the 20 countries with the largest age-gaps between spouses practice polygyny , and that males range from 6. In regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa the use of polygyny is commonly practiced as a consequence of high sex-ratios more males born per females and passing on heterozygous diverse genetics from different females to offspring.
Another reason that polygynous communities have larger age-gaps between spouses is that intrasexual competition for females increases as fewer females remain on the marriage market with males having more than one wife each , therefore the competitive advantage values younger females due to their higher reproductive value.
Comparatively in Western societies such as the US and Europe, there is a trend of smaller age-gaps between spouses, reaching its peak average in Southern Europe of 3. Using the same pathogen-stress model, there is 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. It is thought that a trade-off or equilibrium is reached in regards to what each gender brings to the mating partnership and that this equilibrium is most likely to be reached with a trade-off of ages when selecting a mate.
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.
The rational choice model also suggests that people look for partners who can provide for them in their life bread-winners ; as men traditionally earn more as they get older, women will therefore prefer older men. Age-hypogamy defines a relationship where the woman is the older partner, the opposite of this being age- hypergamy. Older female—younger male relationships are, relative to age-hypergamous relationships older male—younger female , less researched in scientific literature. 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.
Although age-hypogenous relationships have historically been very infrequent, recent US census data has shown an increase in age-hypogenous relationships from 6. There may be many reasons why age-hypogamous relationships are not very frequent. Sexual double standards in society, in particular, may account for their rarity. There is debate in the literature as to what determines age-hypogamy in sexual relationships.
A number of variables have been argued to influence the likelihood of women entering into an age-hypogamous relationship, such as racial or ethnic background, level of education, income, marital status, conservatism, age, and number of sexual partners. Another example illustrating the varying literature surrounding age-hypogamous relationships is research indicating that a woman's marital status can influence her likelihood of engaging in age-hypogamous relationships.
It has been found that married women are less likely to be partnered with a younger male compared to non-married women  in comparison to more recent findings, which provides evidence to suggest that previously married women are more likely to engage in an age-hypogamous sexual relationship compared to women who are married or who have never been married. Despite social views depicting age-hypogamous relationships as short lived and fickle, recent research published by Psychology of Women Quarterly has found that women in age-hypogamous relationships are more satisfied and the most committed in their relationships compared to younger women or similarly aged partners.
A recent study found that when shown pictures of women of ages ranging from 20—45 with different levels of attractiveness, regardless of age, males chose the more attractive individuals as long term partners. The "never date anyone under half your age plus seven" rule is a rule of thumb sometimes used to prejudge whether an age difference is socially acceptable. In earlier sources, the rule had a different interpretation than in contemporary culture, as it was understood as a formula to calculate ideal age for the bride, instead of a lower limit for the suitable age.
The half-your-age-plus seven rule also appears in John Fox, Jr. In modern times, this rule has been criticised as being more accurate for men than women, and for allowing a greater maximum age for a woman's partner later in her life than is actually socially acceptable. The age disparity between two partners is typically met with some disdain in industrialized nations, and various derogatory terms for participants have arisen in the vernacular.
In English-speaking countries, where financial disparity, and an implicit money-for-companionship exchange, is perceived as central to the relationship, the elder of the two partners perceived as the richer is often called a "sugar daddy" or "sugar mama" depending on gender. The younger of the two is similarly called the sugar baby. In extreme cases, a person who marries into an extremely wealthy family can be labelled a gold digger , especially in cases where the wealthy partner is of extreme age or poor health; this term often describes women but can be applied to either gender.
An attractive younger woman pursued by a wealthy man who is perceived as wanting her only for her looks may be called a trophy wife. In the latter case, the term trophy is broadened to include any substantial difference in power originating from physical looks, wealth, or status. It should be noted that the trophy label is often perceived as objectifying the partner, with or without the partner's implicit consent.
Unfortunately, when it comes to this question, there is no prescribed biblical age gap. The Bible rarely gives us age examples in regards to marriage. We do know that Abraham was 10 years older than Sarah. Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child? It is often assumed that Joseph was significantly older than Mary. However, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that indicates this. Love knows no age, but if you date only people who are members of a different generation, it might reveal something about your approach to relationships.
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While people who date only people much younger or older than them owe no one an explanation, it may be helpful to know the underlying reason. Some who date only much older people may be seeking a parental figure more than a romantic partner. They may be insecure about finances and because of that want to be with someone established in his or her career.
A large age difference can undermine the long-term viability of your relationship.
How Young is Too Young to Date? – Towards Data Science
Age differences can also mean pretty significant differences in lifestyles. If you have an established career but your partner is still living with his or her parents, you could be in for quite a ride. This can show up in many forms including having different political views. On the other hand, a big age difference provides you with valuable opportunities to learn about alternative perspectives and experiences. While age differences can create some challenges in your relationship, focusing too much on that can backfire.
Age can be an important factor in a marriage, but it is a far less important than other issues like salvation, spiritual maturity and compatibility.