What makes you socially acceptable

Who is too young or too old for you?

What is the Minimum Acceptable Age for a Dating Partner? When this question comes up in conversation, someone inevitably quotes it half your age plus seven usually. This rule says that by dividing your own age by two and then adding seven, you can find the age socially acceptable minimum age from someone you want to date. So if you are 24 years old you can be with anyone who is at least 19 (12 + 7) years old, but not 18 years old.1 The (less applied) other side of the rule defines a maximum Age Limit: Take your age, subtract 7 and double it. For a 24-year-old, the upper age limit would be 34 (17 * 2). With a little quick math, the rule provides a minimum and maximum partner age based on your actual age that you can use to make your dating decisions if you choose to follow it.

A table of the maximum and minimum age differences between partners based on a person's actual age

The use of this equation? This allows you to show acceptable age differences that adjust over the years. For example, according to the rule, a 30-year-old should be with a partner who is at least 22 years old, while a 50-year-old's dating partner must be at least 32 years old in order not to receive any (suspected) social sanctions.

But how legitimate is this rule? Does it match our scientific understanding of age-related preferences for dating? Is that always true? Should it ever?

Let's examine it.

How well does the rule reflect scientific evidence of age preferences?

Researchers Buunk and colleagues (2000) asked men and women to identify the age they would consider when evaluating people for relationships with varying degrees of engagement. People reported different age preferences for marriage ;; A serious relationship; fall in love; casual sex ;; and sexual fantasies. Did you follow "the rule"?

Based on the numbers provided by Buunk and colleagues (2000) (and therefore the numbers are only approximate), I re-recorded your data, overlaying the maximum and minimum age ranges given by the half age plus rule 7 are defined. Now we can see how well the rule matches the acceptable age given by people.

Minimum age preferred by men for partners: Let's start with the minimum age preferences reported by straight men. In Figure 1, the solid black line represents the calculation of the rule for the minimum acceptable range. You can see that men generally work according to the minimum age preference rule for marital relationships (blue bars) and serious dating relationships (yellow bars). These age preferences move consistently around the values ​​indicated by the rule (the black line). If anything, in practice it is men more conservative When it comes to preferred marriage, it's okay to prefer a higher minimum age than the rule.

Figure 1: Minimum age of preferred male partners compared to the rule

However, when it comes to sexual fantasies, men have minimum age preferences younger as the rule would call appropriate. For example, this sample of 60-year-old men reports that it is acceptable to fantasize about women in their twenties, which would be unacceptable under the rule. But of course, fantasies are generally not subject to public scrutiny, and the rule only serves to calculate what is socially acceptable in the public- So this discrepancy is not necessarily a failure of the rule.

For rule-based involvement (relationships), men 60 years old say the minimum acceptable age is around 40, which is much more in line with the predictions of the rule.

Men preferred maximum Age of partner: The rule says that you can calculate the maximum allowed partner age by subtracting seven from your own age and multiplying by two. Figure 2 clearly shows that the maximum age guidelines typically do this for men Not reflect real preferences. The rule overestimates the perceived acceptance of men engaging with older women. Men do not show a linear increase in preference for maximum age, which is predicted by the rule. Instead, men give a maximum acceptable partner age, which is between 40 and 40 years. After 40 years, the maximum age preferences for most categories remain lower than their own age. Hence, the maximum age rule is quite ineffective at capturing what men actually think is acceptable.

Figure 2: Maximum preferred partner age of male participants compared to the rule

Case Study: George Clooney. Now, let's apply the rule to actual dating behavior by examining George Clooney's dating habits. Clooney has been studied, if not consistently, for dating younger women at times, and this pattern is well reflected in a chart of his own age, the ages of his partners, and the minimum and maximum acceptable age rule calculations. Only twice has he dealt with women whose ages were outside the guidelines of the rule. He approached the line with two other partners but is within the threshold in his marriage to Amal Alamuddin.

Does the rule work for women?

The minimum rule (half your age plus seven years) seems to work for men, although the maximum rule is not followed and does not take into account empirical age-related preferences. How well does the rule capture women's preferences?

Minimum age preferred by women for partners: The following are the data from the study by Buunk et al. (2000) on the minimum age preferences of women. The age calculations of the rule are shown by the solid line. In general, the figure shows that women indicate minimum age preferences exceed the predictions usually. In other words, while the rule is that 40-year-old women can be comfortable with 27-year-old men, it does not reflect women's social preferences and standards. Women in their forties think that around 35 or older is acceptable for a marriage or relationship. Even when they fantasize, the minimum age preference for these women remains over 30 years of age. The calculated minimum age for acceptable partners usually seems to suit men better than women.

Figure 3: Minimum age of the preferred participants compared to the rule

Maximum partner age preferred by women: Again, when testing the maximum preferences, the rule is more lenient and offers an age range that most people are uncomfortable with. The rule states that it is acceptable for 30 year old women to date men who are up to 46 years old. In reality, however, 30-year-old women state that their maximum acceptable partner age would be less than 40 years (approx. 37). . The rule underestimates the reported preferences of women in their twenties, but the gap between reports on what is socially acceptable and the rule itself widen over time.

Figure 4: Maximum preferred partner age of female participants compared to the rule

Case study: Demi Moore. Let's take a look at Demi Moore, who has sometimes been criticized for meeting men who are vastly different from their ages. As you can see from the graph, one partner was past the calculated maximum acceptable age of the rule, while Ashton Kutcher's age was below the socially acceptable minimum when they started dating in 2003. By the time they split up in 2011, however, Kutcher, then 33 had exceeded the minimum threshold usually set (31.5).

How effective is the rule?

Inquisitive outsiders quickly judge when they can notice a large age difference between two romantic partners. Perhaps that is why the rule is so appealing. In a world where many social norms are often unspoken, the rule of half age plus 7 specifically defines a limit.

But the rule does Not Map perfectly to actual reports on what is socially acceptable. Sometimes it's too strict, but most of the time it seems overly indulgent and tolerates age pairings that most people are uncomfortable with. So if you follow the rule of "half your age plus 7", you know that it may not be perfect, or it may really reflect age preferences. You can also be careful to state the maximum age carefully - the minimum age guideline seems to be more targeted (and more so for men than women).

Source: Carlos Horta / Shutterstock

Final grade

If you are 26 years old, however, that person is 20 years old and is exactly on the limit of your minimum threshold (13 + 7). In a couple of years you will be 28 years old and that person will be 22 years old. above Your new threshold of 21 (14 + 7).


B. P. Buunk, P. Dijkstra, D. T. Kenrick & A. Warntjes (2001). Age preferences for partners in relation to gender, own age and degree of participation. Evolution and human behavior, 22, 241-250.