Double standard of aging
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The double standard principle can be applied to one's age among many other distinctions. This phenomenon is called "double standard of aging" and is most prevalent towards females in the 35-55 age range. This is a complicated process that takes into consideration the gender of the observer and the observed as well as the social context of the situation. When judging a person with nobody around both males and females will judge differently from when judging that same person in a group setting. The physical changes that women undergo through the process of aging affects how they are perceived more strongly than the changes that men experience.
As illustrated in a Berman, O'Nan and Floyd study, a female is likely to be judged higher in a private social setting by both males and females than she would in a group social setting. Once the social setting became a group, the women were rated consistently lower, in terms of attractiveness, than the middle aged men and lower than they were in a private setting. In a separate study conducted by Deutisch, Zalenski and Clark, a double standard of aging was evidenced in all represented age groups. It was determined that both males and females were judged lower in attractiveness as they aged; however, the difference in ratings of attractiveness due to age was much greater for women than for men. This study also found a difference in judgement in terms of masculinity and femininity. For men as they aged their attractiveness was judged as decreasing slightly and when judged based on masculinity there was no change. The women in the other hand were judged far less attractive with age as well as being less feminine.
The evolutionary background is that women have a very limited time frame of fertility. The final evolutionary purpose of attractiveness is procreation, therefore a perceived lack of fertility leads to a decreased perceived attractiveness and femininity.
- Phyllis W. Berman, Barbara A. O'Nan and Wayne Floyd, The double standard of aging and the social situation: Judgments of attractiveness of the middle-aged woman, SEX ROLES Volume 7, Number 2, 87-96
- Mary Harris, Growing Old Gracefully: Age Concealment and Gender, Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, Volume 49, Number 4, pages 149-158
- Francine M. Deuisch, Carla M. Zalenski, Mary E. Clark, Is There a Double Standard of Aging, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Volume 16, Issue 9, pages 771–785, December 1986