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But the rule does 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.
Women in their 40s think that approximately 35 or older is acceptable for marriage or a relationship.
Even when fantasizing, such women’s minimum age preference remains over 30.
Only twice has he become involved with women whose ages were outside the rule’s guidelines.
For example, this sample of 60-year-old men reports that it is acceptable to fantasize about women in their 20s, which the rule would say is unacceptable.
So for a 24-year-old, the upper age limit would be 34 (17 * 2). How well does the rule reflect scientific evidence for age preferences?
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. It lets you chart acceptable age discrepancies that adjust over the years. Researchers Buunk and colleagues (2000) asked men and women to identify the ages they would consider when evaluating someone for relationships of different levels of involvement.
As you can see from the graph, one partner exceeded the rule’s calculated acceptable maximum age, while Ashton Kutcher’s age fell short of the socially acceptable minimum age when they first started dating in 2003.
By the time of their separation in 2011, however, Kutcher, then 33 had crossed the minimum threshold (31.5) defined by the rule. Curious outsiders are quick to judge when they can see a wide age gap between two romantic partners. In a world in which many social norms are often unspoken, the half-your-age-plus-7 rule concretely defines a boundary.