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The study found very few instances of older women pursuing much younger men and vice versa.
Within sexual selection Darwin identified a further two mechanisms which are important factors in the evolution of sex differences (sexual dimorphism): intrasexual selection (involve competition with those of the same sex over access to mates) and intersexual choice (discriminative choice of mating partners).
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.
As well as asking participants a number of questions on mate selection criteria, they also had to provide the oldest and youngest partner they would accept.
It was found that for all ages males were willing to accept females that are slightly older than they are (on average 4.5 years older), but they accept females considerably younger than their own age (on average 10 years younger).
The theory predicts that preferred mate choices have evolved to focus on reproductive potential and reproductive investment of members of the opposite sex.
This theory predicts both intrasexual selection and intersexual choice due to differences in parental investment; typically there is competition among members of the lower investing sex (generally males) over the parental investment of the higher investing sex (generally females) who will be more selective in their mate choice.
The study found that, as supported by other academic studies, most men preferred younger, physically attractive women, while most women, of any age, preferred successful, established men their age or older.
The rational choice model suggests that people look for partners who can provide for them in their life (bread-winners); as men traditionally earn more as they get older, women will therefore prefer older men.
One of the concerns of relationships with age disparities in some cultures is a perceived difference between people of different age ranges.
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.