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According to the rule, for example, a 30-year-old should be with a partner who is at least 22, while a 50-year-old’s dating partner must be at least 32 to not attract (presumed) social sanction. Does it match our scientific understanding of age-related preferences for dating? Researchers Buunk and colleagues (2000) 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 (2000) 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.
The rule underestimates women’s reported preferences in their 20s, but the gap between reports of what is socially acceptable and the rule itself widen over time. Let’s take a look at Demi Moore, who at times has been criticized for dating men who differ substantially from her own age.
As you can see from the graph, one partner exceeded the rule’s calculated acceptable maximum age, while Ashton Kutcher’s age fell short of the socially-acceptable minimum age when they first started dating in 2003.
Those age preferences consistently hover around the values denoted by the rule (the black line).
If anything, in practice men are than the rule would designate appropriate.
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).For rule-related involvement (e.g., relationships), 60-year-old men are stating that the minimum acceptable age is around 40ish, which does map much more closely to the rule’s predictions.Men’s preferred partner age: The rule states that you can calculate maximum acceptable partner ages by subtracting seven from your own age and multiplying it by 2.Now we can see how well the rule corresponds with people’s reported acceptable ages.Men’s preferred minimum partner age: Let’s start with minimum age preferences reported by heterosexual men.
Figure 2 clearly shows that the rule’s max-age guidelines for men do reflect real-world preferences.