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Wellness » Love. We are seeing large age gaps in the dating pool and not just the typical old-man-younger-woman narrative. For example, a AARP study reported that 34 percent of women over 39 years old were dating younger men. Add in the popularization of divorce over the last 50 years and the introduction of dating apps, and matters of love, sex and how we connect are utterly transformed.

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Research finds that one well-known guideline may not work for everyone.

Posted May 2, Reviewed by Lybi Ma. What is the acceptable minimum age for a dating partner? When this question comes up in conversation, someone inevitably cites the half your age plus seven rule. This rule states that by dividing your own age by two and then adding seven you can find the socially acceptable minimum age of anyone you want to date.

With some quick math, the rule provides a minimum and maximum partner age based on your actual age that, if you choose to follow it, you can use to guide your dating decisions. The utility of this equation? It lets you chart acceptable age discrepancies that adjust over the years.

But how legitimate is this rule?

Does it match our scientific understanding of age-related preferences for dating? Does it always apply? Should it ever?

Researchers Buunk and colleagues 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 provided and thus the s are only informed approximationsI replotted their data superimposing the max Dating age rule min age ranges defined by the half-your-age-plus-7 rule.

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.

Those age preferences consistently hover around the values denoted by the rule the black line. If anything, in practice, men are more conservative when it comes to preferred marriage, preferring a minimum age higher than the rule would say is OK. When it comes to sexual fantasies, however, men have minimum age preferences that are younger than the rule would deate appropriate.

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For example, this sample of year-old men reports that it is acceptable to fantasize about women in their 20s, which the rule would say is unacceptable. But fantasies, of course, are not generally subject to public scrutiny and the rule is only deed to calculate what is socially acceptable in the public eye —so this discrepancy is not necessarily a failure of the rule. The rule overestimates the perceived acceptability of men becoming involved with older women.

Instead, men report maximum acceptable partner ages that hover around Dating age rule own age through their 40s. After 40, maximum age preferences for most remain lower than their own age. Thus the rule for maximum age is fairly ineffective at capturing what men actually believe is acceptable.

Dating age rule

Case Study: George Clooney. He approached the line with two other partners but is well within the threshold in his marriage with Amal Alamuddin. The minimum rule half-your-age-plus-seven seems to work for men, although the maximum rule falls short, failing to reflect empirical age-related preferences.

In other words, while the rule states Dating age rule year-old women can feel comfortable dating year-old men, this does not reflect the social preferences and standards of women. Women in their 40s think that approximately 35 or older is acceptable for marriage or a relationship.

The rule states that it is acceptable for year old women to date men who are up to 46 years old, but in reality, year-old women state that their max acceptable partner age would be less than 40 around Case Study: Demi Moore. By the time of their separation inhowever, Kutcher, then 33 had crossed the minimum threshold Curious outsiders are quick to judge when they can see a wide age gap between two romantic partners. Maybe this is why the rule is so appealing. In a world in which many social Dating age rule are often unspoken, the half-your-age-plus-7 rule concretely defines a boundary.

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But the rule does not map perfectly onto actual reports of what is socially acceptable. At times it is too stringent, but most often it appears too lenient, condoning age pairings with which most Dating age rule are not comfortable. So if you are following the half-your-age-plus-7 rule, know that it may not be perfect or truly mirror age-related preference.

You might also take care to refer to the maximum age judiciously—the minimum age guideline seems to be more on target and more so for men than women. Buunk, B. Age preferences for mates as related to gender, own age, and involvement level.

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Evolution and Human Behavior22 Theresa DiDonato, Ph. Theresa E. DiDonato Ph. Meet, Catch, and Keep. Research finds that one well-known guideline may not work for everyone. Key points People often use the "half-your-age-plus-7 rule" to determine the minimum socially acceptable age they can date — but this doesn't always work. In some cases, the of the "half-your-age-plus-7 rule" doesn't reflect scientific evidence for age preferences.

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Men prefer a minimum age that's higher than the "half-your-age-plus-7 rule" would say is okay. References Buunk, B. About the Author. Read Next.

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