This rules 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. Take your age, subtract 7, and double it. So for a year old, the upper age limit would be 34 i.
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. But how legitimate is this rule? Does it match our scientific understanding of age-related preferences for dating? Does it always apply? How well does the rule reflect scientific evidence for age preferences? 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 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.
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.
Male Participants' Minimum Preferred Partner Age as Compared to the Rule When it comes to sexual fantasies, however, men have minimum age preferences that are younger than the rule would designate appropriate. For example, this sample of year-old men report 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 designed to calculate what is socially acceptable in the public eye—so this discrepancy is not necessarily a failure of the rule.
For rule-related involvement e. The rule states that you can calculate maximum acceptable partner ages by subtracting seven from your own age and multiplying it by 2. The rule overestimates the perceived acceptability of men becoming involved with older women. Instead, men report maximum acceptable partner ages that hover around their own age through their 40s.
After 40, maximum age preferences for most categories remain lower than their own age. Thus the rule for maximum ages is fairly ineffective at capturing what men actually believe is acceptable. He approached the line with two other partners, but is well within the threshold in his marriage with Amal Alamuddin. Does the rule work for women? 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.
Below are the data from Buunk et al. In other words, while the rule states that 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.
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 year old women to date men who are up to 46 years old, but in actuality, year-old women state that their max acceptable partner age would be less than 40 around By the time of their separation in , however, Kutcher, then 33 had crossed the minimum threshold How effective is the rule?
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 norms are often unspoken, the half-your-age-plus-7 rule concretely defines a boundary. 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 people 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. Age preferences for mates as related to gender , own age, and involvement level. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22,