Does Age Matter in Relationships  Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Age Matter?

Differences in age between romantic partners can elicit a number of reactions, depending on the age of the youngest partner. Hollywood celebrities, who marry much younger partners, are often made fun of in the entertainment media; however, if the younger partner is still a teenager, or worse yet, a minor, then the mainstream media may weigh in with their own brand of demonization directed at the older partner. Phrases like 'cradle robber' are bandied about, or in the case of an attractive younger individual becoming involved with a much older 'elderly' partner, the phrase 'gold digger' may be heard. There is thus a sense that power imbalances within relationships will result in the exploitation of the more vulnerable partner. The following essay attempts to show that age does matter in romantic relationships, but primarily when one of the partners is a minor.


Men and women generally prefer romantic relationships with someone close to their own age, with men preferring someone about three-year younger and women the reverse (Lehmiller and Agnew 74-75). Openness to a wider age gap is also evident, but this openness is generally reserved for personal romantic attachments rather than those of their friends or strangers. This hypocritical bias is particularly evident when judging a relationship where the woman is significantly older than her partner.

The impact of other's opinions seems to play an influential role in determining both satisfaction with, and commitment to, romantic couples where the woman is significantly younger (> 10 yrs) (Lehmiller and Agnew 81). Younger women are therefore more vulnerable to social expectations, which probably undermines their ability to feel satisfied and committed to a relationship with an older male.

When the woman is a minor, there may be a benefit to the negative influence of social expectations. When the male partner is at least six years older, there is a 3.7-fold greater chance for pregnancy compared to similar aged relationships (Darroch, Landry, and Oslak 166). In 1994, 56% of the births by teenage mothers between the ages of 15 and 17 were the result of having sex with men three or more years older, representing a 1.4-fold increase in pregnancy rates compared to similar aged relationships. In addition, the prevalence of abortion among teenage women, who are involved with male partners at least six years older, is less than half the rate among relationships with similar aged males. A large age difference, when the woman is a teenage minor, therefore significantly increases pregnancy rates and births.


Do negative social sanctions against a minor becoming romantically involved with a much older mate serve an important function? It has been suggested that teenage women may become involved with an older male because they were pressured into the relationship,…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Allen, Amy. "Does Age Matter in a Relationship." RR Donnelley. 7 May 2010. Web. 17 May 2012.

Darroch, Jacqueline E., Landry, David J., and Oslak, Selene. "Age Differences Between Sexual Partners in the United States." Family Planning Perspectives 31.4 (1999): 160-167.

Hamilton, Brady E. And Ventura, Stephanie J. "Birth Rates for U.S. Teenagers Reach Historic Lows for All Age and Ethnic Groups." National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 89 (2012 Apr.): 1-8. Web. 17 May 2012.

Lehmiller, Justin J. And Agnew, Christopher R. "Commitment in Age-Gap Heterosexual Romantic Relationships: A Test of Evolutionary and Socio-Cultural Predictions." Psychology of Women Quarterly 32.1 (2008): 74-82.

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