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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.
A study released in 2003 by the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics concluded that the proportion of women in England and Wales marrying younger men rose from 15% to 26% between 19.
In various cultures, older men and younger women often seek one another for sexual or marital relationships.Male chimpanzees tend to prefer older females than younger and it is suggested that specific cues of female mate value are very different to humans.Buss attributed the young age preference for females to the cues that youth has.These two theories explain why natural and sexual selection acts slightly differently on the two sexes so that they display different preferences.For example, different age preferences may be a result of sex differences in mate values assigned to the opposite sex at those ages.