The finding that women are attracted to men older than themselves whereas men are attracted to relatively younger women has been explained by social psychologists in terms of economic exchange rooted in traditional sex-role norms. An alternative evolutionary model suggests that males and females follow different reproductive strategies, and predicts a more complex relationship between gender and age preferences. In particular, males’ preferences for relatively younger females should be minimal during early mating years, but should become more pronounced as the male gets older.
Young females are expected to prefer somewhat older males during their early years and to change less as they age. I will focus on female preference, since there is a general consensus about male tastes. I feel compelled to redress much of the misinformation being circulated on the manosphere about what is the male age prefered on female choices. When it comes to mating, there’s an unscientific, but prevailing opinion that older men want younger women and viceversa.
For example, the evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa wondered on psychology today why teenage girls don’t swoon for middle-aged billionaires: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201007/why-don-t-teenage-girls-swoon-middle-aged-billionaires
On the other hand, couples where the woman is significantly older than her male partner currently have a high prominence in international media and in popular culture I will start analyzing actual data of married couples by differences in ages between husband and wife. According to 2012 Census Bureau data, 7.2% of the couples are composed of a husband 10 years older (or more) than his wife, and only 2.3% of husbands are 15 (or more) years older than their wives of the total married population.
These data are crushing. This initial analysis of census data suggests that the extent of the older man vs. younger woman couple is exaggerated by the manosphere. This data represents a break from this wrong view, meaning that most desirable women under 25 (on their peak of beauty) do not marry middle aged men (over 40), because despite the financial support is currently no longer a necessity for women.
The exchange concept assumes that men tried to exchange their socioeconomic resources (such as education or income) against the physical beauty of women and viceversa, in pre-industrialized societies. Nonetheless, clear empirical evidence for this pattern has been waning mainly after sexual revolution at mid-twentieth century.
Now I’ll briefly present a meta-analysis of studies testing female mate preferences. Let’s see:
1) Bram P. Buunk et al (2001) found that women prefer partners of their own age, regardless of their own age and regardless of the level of relationship involvement. http://www.staff.amu.edu.pl/~osiejuk/Dydaktyka/Sygnaly/konwersatoria/downloads/files/10.1.c.pdf
2) Pawlowski & Dunbar (1999) found that women typically prefer males 2-3 years older than themselves and this remains stable across the age range. http://www.ehbonline.org/article/S1090-5138%2898%2900038-5/abstract
3) Preferences of teenage females (from 12 to 19) are similar in pattern to those of adult females, ranging, on average, from their own age to several years older (Kenrick et al, 1996). http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1996.tb01810.x/abstract;jsessionid=97BBB57AE185C2526ABD9BAA032BA2B5.d02t03?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false
4) Thao Ha et al 2009 tested that male social status does not strongly affect mating desire on female teens and at their first twenty. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2933005/
5) Women younger than 30 years made more contacts with older men. (But note that the average-age difference is just around 2 years). At higher ages, women contacted older males less and less in absolute terms. Contacting younger men was very rare for women in their 20s or younger. With increasing age, hypophily also rose for women. http://hsr-trans.zhsf.uni-koeln.de/hsrretro/docs/artikel/hsr/hsr2009_1129.pdf
6) The older a person is the older the faces they prefer and this effect is more pronounced in female judges [Buss 1999]. The rating of physical attractiveness perceived is own-age linked. Thus young persons tend to prefer youthful facial traits.
7) By the other hand, Zebrowitz et al, 1993 showed that attractiveness ratings of male faces went down at about the same pace as they did for females. Suggesting that a youthful appearance might contribute to attractiveness in both sexes. http://www.brandeis.edu/departments/psych/zebrowitz/publications/PDFs/1990s/Zebrowitz__Olson__Hoffman_1993.pdf
8) In a study based ratings of physical attractiveness reflect a negative correlation between age and beauty. Ratings of striking attractiveness or handsomeness were quite heavily concentrated among subjects under 35, and the rest of ratings distribution tends to show steady deterioration with growing age (Campbell et al 1976).
9) Milord found that age was an important determinant of preference judgements for facial attractiveness of two age groups, with younger faces being preferred. (Milord , J. T.,1978).
10) Korthase found that a strong negative correlation (r= – 0.91) between perceived age and physical attractiveness in the ratings of facial photographs of young, middle-aged, and older adults. http://www.amsciepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/pms.1982.54.3c.1251
11) Christian Rudder, president of OkCupid, is the guy who digs up the numbers from the millions of people using his free dating site. In his book, “Dataclysm,”, data reveals the same results. Young women from 18-30 find guys of her age or slightly older as the most attractive for them, and so forth. Up until about 30, when women will almost always prefer a man of her age or younger. : http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/christian-rudder-dataclysm-okcupid/
12) A 2008 study, cited by Time, published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly found that women who are 10 or more years older than their partner report more relationship satisfaction than women who are with men their own age or younger: http://pwq.sagepub.com/content/32/1/74.abstract
13) Glancing at 2 online dating sites (and online dating studies always relying on the greater validity:
a) OkCupid Blog found that man’s desirability peaks at 26-27 and about 70% of female dating pool is interested in male daters at that range of age: And the distribution average for the subset of female population of 18 years old:Their desired male age is ranging from 18 to 24 approximately.
And the distribution average for the subset of female population of 30 years old: Their desired male age is ranging from 23 to 33, approximately.
b) Here’s the probability a woman responds to a message from a man on AYI.com:
We can see that women are likely to respond to a message from someone younger than they are from someone older. AYI concludes that, among 35,942 users ages 30 to 49, a woman was five times more likely to show interest in a man who was five years her junior, rather than one who was five years older.
14) Women are typically indifferent between men at their age and men who are 5 to 9 years older (only for women ages 30 to 39 is the effect slightly negative and statistically significant) but prefer men of a similar age to men who are older by 10 or more years. http://home.uchicago.edu/~ghitsch/Hitsch-Research/Guenter_Hitsch_files/Mate-Preferences.pdf
According to Donald Symons the peak physical attractiveness for men is at the age about 25-30. The natural force (no entrainment) gradually increases until that age. Most of male models and strippers usually work in their twenties. According to the traditional division of life in the Middle Ages, for example in the papers of Isidore of Seville, is at 28 years old when a man reaches greater strength, intelligence, virtue and physical beauty. In 1500 Albrecht Dürer painted his most famous self-portrait, at 28 years old, depicted as “Jesus Christ”.
Dürer, one of the main creators of the Renaissance rules, he self-portrait at the age in which he considered to have reached his physical perfection. Furthermore, in humans is well known assortative pairing for age, (Spuhler 1968, Mascie-Taylor 1987; Hollingshead 1950; Klein 1996). Age patterns of marriage partners have been explained in terms of societal norms regarding an acceptable age relation within a couple (e.g., Lewis/Spanier 1979; Spanier/Glick 1980).
The core assumption is that men and women internalize socially shared conceptions about a “normal” partnership during the course of their socialization. Age-related mate preferences should be discuss in the background of (a) social norms and (b) social exchange and (c) a market perspective on partner preferences. The measurement of preferences comprises two methodological approaches: First, a preference can be measured via self-report data surveyed by questionnaire items assessing the characteristics of an ideal mate. Second, in contrast, one can also observe actual choices of individuals and thereby virtually “reveal” their preferences.
The more “looks” are rated as a relevant partner feature, the more likely women are to state a preference for younger or almost equal partners. In other words, age preferences are partially a trade-off function of preferences for physical attractiveness and assortative mating or homogamy by age —not only for men but also for women. Furthermore, the more women emphasized education / wealth as an important partner feature, the stronger their age preference shift from equal / doesn’t matter to almost equal / older men.
Thus, women’s age preferences seemed to be confounded with preferences for educational (and hence economic) status. But Thao Ha et al 2009 tested that male social status does not strongly affect mating desire on female teens and at their first twenty.
Another study [Gil-Burmann et al 2002] found women under 40 years old seek mainly physical attractiveness in men, whereas majority over 40, females past their fertile period, want trade-off between resources -socioeconomic status and attractiveness.
Western women are economically independent and they are just following their sexual instincts straight into being choosier and increasing their mate standards according to the natural female human biology:
1- Preferences for a universally agreed on phenotypic quality (such as physical attractiveness):
a) Facial attractiveness is the most important for young adults (i.e., at an age of maximum reproductive ability and activity), and of little importance for old people [Rooney (2006); Thao Ha (2009); Burmann (2002); etc]. The older a person is the older the faces they prefer and this effect is more pronounced in female judges [Buss 1999]. The rating of physical attractiveness perceived is own-age linked. Thus young persons tend to prefer youthful facial traits.
b) Both men and women desire attractive sexual partners, the more attractive the better. [Burley (1983), Kalick & Hamilton (1986); Ellis and Kelley (1999) [Asendorpf et al. 2011, Back et al. 2011] [Hitsch et al. 2010, Shaw Taylor et al. 2011], c) Male age is not linked to fertility cues but physical attractiveness is indicative of underlying genetic fitness and and health.
2-Decision criteria can include preferences for similarity (homophily).
3- Mate choice systems include interactions limited by geographical, social space and socio-environmental constraints. Young women make their date selection from within their local neighborhoods, college classmates, friends, social networks, etc. Generally men of their range of age.
4- The impact of social norms. We could expect that norms prescribe preferences for “directed” similarity (similar age, but man slightly older). Alternatively, as Bytheway (1981) argues, age-related partnership norms might lose their relevance for choices by older persons. If this is the case, we expect to observe more idiosyncrasies in the age preferences of older individuals and, what is crucial here, an increasing alignment of age preferences in men and women among older age groups.
Before women entered into the workforce, so main reason that women married wealthy men was for financial support. If money is no longer a necessity, they can look for high phenotypical quality men. In the Western world, gender equality, the sexual revolution, and in particular the advent of the contraceptive pill has given women more freedom for choosing a partner. The contraceptive pill brought about a distinction between childbearing and sexuality, enabling women to choose to be with a partner who suited them but who was not necessarily the most suitable partner to bear children with (usually an older man with a relatively good income).
The pill also gave women the option of delaying childbirth or rejecting the notion of having children altogether. Simply women are increasingly of similar education and income levels to men, are taking on senior roles in the workplace, and are gaining more status. The age gap distribution in undevelopment countries show us that education, urbanization, economic independence is key in determining at what age women marry, and depressing spousal age gap. Large spousal age differences are especially found at polygynous unions:
Functional and Phylogenetic explanations for female preferences based on age: Here, I am going to argue that consideration of functional and phylogenetic level explanations for age preferences can drive hypothesis generation at the causal and ontogenetic explanatory levels. That is, male age cues to attractiveness may be usually posited to relate to some aspect of underlying, physiological health (Coetzee et al., 2009), since individuals who show preferences for mating with healthy individuals will have increased reproductive success (see Kokko et al., 2003 ).
a) Paternal Age and Mutational Load. Paternal age is a significant driver of the human mutation rate, likely the main driver. Obviously this implies that many medical problems are more common in the children of older fathers, which is known to be the case. Less obviously, it implies that a population that has had high average paternal age for a long time will have a higher-than-average mutational load. This may well explain preliminary results that seem to show such differences.
Observed differences in paternal age are large enough to generate the sort of differences that have been observed so far. For example, judging from the Decode study, the mutation rate in a population with an average paternal age of 34 would be > 20% higher than that in a population with an average paternal age of 28. The question is that mildly deleterious mutations, ones that reduce fitness by something like 1%, are considerably more common than ones that drastically reduce fitness.
This makes sense, because most non-synonymous mutations, ones that change an amino acid in a protein, don’t cause a big decrease in fitness. A few do, as when a mutation turns an amino acid into a stop codon, truncating the protein. Greg Cochran points out that:
“Note that this describes the spectrum of new mutations. The distribution of existing deleterious mutations in a population is quite different. Dominant lethal mutations are not passed on; hence do not build up with time. The dominant lethals you see are all new, freshly generated by mutation. On the other hand, a mutation that reduces fitness by 1% is only slowly eliminated by purifying selection, so its frequency builds up with time. Its equilibrium frequency is 100 times higher than that of a dominant lethal that occurs equally often. Deleterious mutations in the genome is an important variable in health and disease.” ( Greg Cochran, West Hunter. http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/more-thoughts-on-genetic-load/)
Furthermore deleterious mutations interact synergistically causing impaired performance in individual systems and this leads to a positive correlation between the total number of deleterious mutations in the genome and impaired performance across the whole spectrum of biological capability. This includes performance in intellectual tasks, sporting ability, the ability to fight disease and preserve health and the development of a symmetrical physical form.
Sexual reproduction distributes deleterious mutations unequally amongst zygotes and Z will correlate negatively with zygote mutational load. Rising environmental mutagenesis will lead to a rise in the human genomic mutational load and to decrease Z, although the full effect would take several generations. So that a marked rise in environmental mutagenesis would lead to species extinction if mate choice were random, i.e., unrelated to the genomic mutational load.
The biological imperfections caused by mutations, however, in health, intelligence and physical symmetry are all, to varying degrees, related to sexual attraction. Thefore if mates are chosen in response to sexual attraction the species can be maintained in the presence of high environmental mutagenesis.
1) John Haldane subsequently proposed that children inherit more mutations from their fathers than their mothers (Haldane, J. B. S. Ann. Eugen. 13, 262–271 (1947).)
2) Moreover, a study published in Nature finds that the age at which a father sires children determines how many mutations those offspring inherit (Kong, A. et al. Nature 488, 471–475 (2012).)
3) Some Papers published that identified dozens of new mutations implicated in autism and found that the mutations were four times more likely to originate on the father’s side than the mother’s: Sanders, S. J. et al. Nature 485, 237–241 (2012). Neale, B. M. et al. Nature 485, 242–245 (2012). O’Roak, B. J. et al. Nature 485, 246–250 (2012).
4) Older fathers pass on more genetic mutations, study shows: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22914163
b) Age as A Factor In Physical Fitness.
Several experimental studies have found female preferences for male figures with a medium body mass index and a pronounced upper body v-shape, a likely indication of a mesomorphic, muscular physique and, thus, physical fitness (Dixson, Halliwell, East, Wignarajah, & Anderson, 2003; Furnham & Baguma 1994; Horvath, 1981; Lavrakas, 1975; but see Gitter, Lomranz, & Saxe, 1982 for conflicting results).
Moreover, two correlational studies using more realistic stimuli supported these experimental results: Fan, Dai, Liu, and Wu (2005), using 3D wire frame film clips, and Maisey, Vale, Cornelissen, and Tovee (1999), using front view photographs, found male bodies with low body mass index, broad pectoral, and small waists to be attractive for women. Older males secrete luteinizing hormone and testosterone more irregularly, and jointly more asynchronously, than younger males: http://www.pnas.org/content/93/24/14100.full. And men tend to maintain their peak levels of muscular strength and endurance, aerobic power, and cardiovascular fitness until age 30. After 30 there is a gradual decline throughout their lives: http://www.scielo.br/pdf/abc/v94n4/en_aop00110.pdf