Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in human reproductive strategies

Douglas Kenrick, Richard C. Keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

448 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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' preference 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. We briefly review relevant theory and present results of six studies testing this prediction. Study 1 finds support for this gender-differentiated prediction in age preferences expressed in personal advertisements. Study 2 supports the prediction with marriage statistics from two U.S. cities. Study 3 examines the cross-generational robustness of the phenomenon, and finds the same pattern in marriage statistics from 1923. Study 4 replicates Study 1 using matrimonial advertisements from two European countries, and from India. Study 5 finds a consistent pattern in marriages recorded from 1913 through 1939 on a small island in the Philippines. Study 6 reveals the same pattern in singles advertisements placed by financially successful American women and men. We consider the limitations of previous normative and evolutionary explanations of age preferences and discuss the advantages of expanding previous models to include the life history perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-133
Number of pages59
JournalBehavioral and Brain Sciences
Volume15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1992

Fingerprint

mating behavior
gender differences
Sex Characteristics
reproductive strategy
marriage
Marriage
prediction
gender
statistics
sex role
Philippines
Islands
India
life history
Economics
Psychology
economics
advertisement
young
woman

Keywords

  • Attraction
  • Ethological theory
  • Evolution
  • Gender differences
  • Life history strategies
  • Mate selection
  • Sexual selection
  • Similarity
  • Social exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

Cite this

Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in human reproductive strategies. / Kenrick, Douglas; Keefe, Richard C.

In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 15, No. 1, 03.1992, p. 75-133.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{7bca7db455a24ced932d6f9f1bf2bfbf,
title = "Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in human reproductive strategies",
abstract = "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' preference 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. We briefly review relevant theory and present results of six studies testing this prediction. Study 1 finds support for this gender-differentiated prediction in age preferences expressed in personal advertisements. Study 2 supports the prediction with marriage statistics from two U.S. cities. Study 3 examines the cross-generational robustness of the phenomenon, and finds the same pattern in marriage statistics from 1923. Study 4 replicates Study 1 using matrimonial advertisements from two European countries, and from India. Study 5 finds a consistent pattern in marriages recorded from 1913 through 1939 on a small island in the Philippines. Study 6 reveals the same pattern in singles advertisements placed by financially successful American women and men. We consider the limitations of previous normative and evolutionary explanations of age preferences and discuss the advantages of expanding previous models to include the life history perspective.",
keywords = "Attraction, Ethological theory, Evolution, Gender differences, Life history strategies, Mate selection, Sexual selection, Similarity, Social exchange",
author = "Douglas Kenrick and Keefe, {Richard C.}",
year = "1992",
month = "3",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "15",
pages = "75--133",
journal = "Behavioral and Brain Sciences",
issn = "0140-525X",
publisher = "Cambridge University Press",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in human reproductive strategies

AU - Kenrick, Douglas

AU - Keefe, Richard C.

PY - 1992/3

Y1 - 1992/3

N2 - 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' preference 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. We briefly review relevant theory and present results of six studies testing this prediction. Study 1 finds support for this gender-differentiated prediction in age preferences expressed in personal advertisements. Study 2 supports the prediction with marriage statistics from two U.S. cities. Study 3 examines the cross-generational robustness of the phenomenon, and finds the same pattern in marriage statistics from 1923. Study 4 replicates Study 1 using matrimonial advertisements from two European countries, and from India. Study 5 finds a consistent pattern in marriages recorded from 1913 through 1939 on a small island in the Philippines. Study 6 reveals the same pattern in singles advertisements placed by financially successful American women and men. We consider the limitations of previous normative and evolutionary explanations of age preferences and discuss the advantages of expanding previous models to include the life history perspective.

AB - 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' preference 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. We briefly review relevant theory and present results of six studies testing this prediction. Study 1 finds support for this gender-differentiated prediction in age preferences expressed in personal advertisements. Study 2 supports the prediction with marriage statistics from two U.S. cities. Study 3 examines the cross-generational robustness of the phenomenon, and finds the same pattern in marriage statistics from 1923. Study 4 replicates Study 1 using matrimonial advertisements from two European countries, and from India. Study 5 finds a consistent pattern in marriages recorded from 1913 through 1939 on a small island in the Philippines. Study 6 reveals the same pattern in singles advertisements placed by financially successful American women and men. We consider the limitations of previous normative and evolutionary explanations of age preferences and discuss the advantages of expanding previous models to include the life history perspective.

KW - Attraction

KW - Ethological theory

KW - Evolution

KW - Gender differences

KW - Life history strategies

KW - Mate selection

KW - Sexual selection

KW - Similarity

KW - Social exchange

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0002156637&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0002156637&partnerID=8YFLogxK

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:0002156637

VL - 15

SP - 75

EP - 133

JO - Behavioral and Brain Sciences

JF - Behavioral and Brain Sciences

SN - 0140-525X

IS - 1

ER -