Women’s preferred minimum partner age: Below are the data from Buunk et al.’s (2000) study on women’s minimum age preferences; the rule’s age calculations are represented by the solid line.In general, the figure shows that women are reporting minimum age preferences that the rule’s predictions.Figure 2 clearly shows that the rule’s max-age guidelines for men do reflect real-world preferences.
Women’s preferred maximum partner age: Examining maximum preferences, again the rule is more lenient, offering an age range with which most people are not comfortable.The rule states that it is acceptable for 30-year old women to date men who are up to 46 years old, but in actuality, 30-year-old women state that their max acceptable partner age would be less than 40 (around 37).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.By the time of their separation in 2011, however, Kutcher, then 33 had crossed the minimum threshold (31.5) defined by the rule. Curious outsiders are quick to judge when they can see a wide age gap between two romantic partners. In a world in which many social norms are often unspoken, the half-your-age-plus-7 rule concretely defines a boundary.
But the rule does map perfectly onto actual reports of what is socially acceptable.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.Men do not show a linear increase in maximum age preference that matches the rule’s predictions.Instead, men report maximum acceptable partner ages that hover around their own age through their 40s.In Figure 1, the solid black line represents the rule’s calculation for minimum acceptable range.