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A study conducted by David Buss investigated sex differences in mate preferences in 37 cultures with 10,047 participants.
In all 37 cultures it was found that males preferred females younger than themselves and females preferred males older than themselves.
An overarching evolutionary theory which can provide an explanation for the above mechanisms and strategies adopted by individuals which leads to age disparity in relationships is called Life History theory Life History theory posits that individuals have to divide energy and resources between activities (as energy and resources devoted to one task cannot be used for another task) and this is shaped by natural selection.
Parental Investment Theory refers to the value that is placed on a potential mate based on reproductive potential and reproductive investment.
In females, relative youth and physical attractiveness (which males valued more compared to females) demonstrated cues for fertility and high reproductive capacity.
Buss stated the specific age preference of around 25 years implied that fertility was a stronger ultimate cause of mate preference than reproductive value as data suggested that fertility peaks in females around mid-twenties.
Females demonstrate a complementary pattern, being willing to accept considerably older males (on average 8 years older) and were also willing to accept males slightly younger than themselves (on average 5 years younger).
This is somewhat different to our close evolutionary relatives: chimpanzees.These age preferences were confirmed in marriage records with males marrying females younger than them and vice versa.This study used 21,245 participants between 18 and 65 years of age who were not involved in a close relationship.Age disparity in sexual relationships is the difference in ages of individuals in sexual relationships.Concepts of these relationships, including what defines an age disparity, have developed over time and vary among societies.In August 2010, Michael Dunn of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff completed and released the results of a study on age disparity in dating.