Age disparity in sexual relationships
Age disparity in sexual relationships, and sexual relationships between individuals of a significant difference in age, have been documented for most of recorded history, and have been regarded with a wide range of attitudes, from normalized acceptance to taboo. Concepts of these relationships, and of the exact definition of a "significant" age disparity, have developed over time and vary between societies, legal systems (particularly with regards to the age of consent), and ethical systems. These views are rarely uniform even within cultures, and are affected by views of consent, marriage, and gender roles, and by perceptions of social and economic differences between age groups.
Relationships with age disparity of all kinds have been observed with both men and women as the older or younger partner. In various cultures, older men and younger women often seek one another for sexual or marital relationships. Older women sometimes date younger men as well, and in both cases wealth and physical attractiveness are often relevant.
In the developed world, most men marry women younger than themselves, with the difference being between two to three years; with the UK reporting the difference to be on average about three years, and the US, two and a half. The pattern was also confirmed for the rest of the world, with the gap being largest in Africa. A study released in 2003 by the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics concluded that the proportion of women in England and Wales marrying younger men rose from 15% to 26% between 1963 and 1998. The study also showed a higher divorce rate as the age difference rose when the woman was older and a lower divorce rate as the age difference rose when the man was older. A 2008 study, however, concluded that the difference is not significant.
In August 2010, Michael Dunn of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff completed and released the results of a study on age disparity in dating. Dunn concluded that "Not once across all ages and countries...did females show a preference for males significantly younger than male preferences for females" and that there was a "consistent cross-cultural preference by women for at least same-age or significantly older men." A 2003 AARP study reported that 34% of women over 39 years old were dating younger men.
A 2010 study suggested that age disparity in marriage is positively correlated with decreased longevity, particularly for women, through married individuals still have longer lifespans then singles.
Reasons for age disparity
Explanations for age disparity usually focus on either the rational choice model or the analysis of demographic trends in a society. The rational choice model suggests that people look for partners who can provide for them in their life (bread-winners); as males traditionally earn more as they get older, females will therefore prefer older men. This factor is diminishing as more women enter the labor force and the gender pay gap decreases. The demographic trends are concerned with the gender ratio in the society, the marriage squeeze, and migration patterns. Another explanation concerns cultural values: the higher the value placed in having children, the higher the age gap will be.
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. One of the concerns of relationships with age disparities in some cultures is a perceived difference between people of different age ranges. 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 that may affect the dynamics of the relationship.
The "half-your-age-plus-seven" rule
The "never date anyone under half your age plus seven" rule is a rule of thumb used by some to judge whether the age difference in an intimate relationship is socially acceptable. Often said to be a French maxim, it appeared in American newspapers in 1931, attributed to Maurice Chevalier, and in the 1951 play The Moon Is Blue by F. Hugh Herbert, and subsequently in the 1953 Otto Preminger film of the play.
- Chronophilia (Pedophilia, Hebephilia, Ephebophilia, Teleiophilia, Gerontophilia)
- Enjo kōsai
- List of films featuring romances of significant age disparity
- Marriageable age
- Trophy wife
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- New Look magazine April 2007
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