Laura J Botzet, Amanda Shea, Virginia J Vitzthum, Anna Druet, Maddie Sheesley and Tanja M Gerlach

The link between age and partner preferences in a large, international sample of single women

Human Nature

Women’s capacity to reproduce varies over the life span, and developmental goals such as family formation are age-graded and shaped by social norms about the appropriate age for completing specific developmental tasks. Thus, a woman’s age may be linked to her ideas about what an ideal partner should be like. With the goals of replicating and extending prior research, in this study we examined the role of age in women’s partner preferences across the globe. We investigated associations of age with ideal long-term partner preferences in a cross-cultural sample of 17,254 single (i.e., unpartnered) heterosexual women, ages 18 to 67, from 147 countries. Data were collected via an online questionnaire, the Ideal Partner Survey. Confirming our preregistered hypotheses, we found no or only negligible age effects on preferences for kindness-supportiveness, attractiveness, financial security-successfulness, or education-intelligence. Age was, however, positively associated with preferences for confidence-assertiveness. Consistent with family formation goals, age was associated with an ideal partner’s parenting intentions (high until approximately age 30, then decreasing afterward). Age range deemed acceptable (and in particular, the discrepancy between one’s own age and the minimum ideal age of a partner) increased with age. This latter pattern also replicated in exploratory analyses based on subsamples of lesbian and bisexual women. In summary, age has a limited impact on partner preferences. Of the attributes investigated, only preference for confidence-assertiveness was linked with age. However, age range deemed acceptable and an ideal partner’s parenting intention, a dimension mostly neglected in earlier research, substantially vary with age.