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These age preferences were confirmed in marriage records with males marrying females younger than them and vice versa.
This study used 21,245 participants between 18 and 65 years of age who were not involved in a close relationship.
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.
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.
In August 2010, Michael Dunn of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff completed and released the results of a study on age disparity in dating.
Dunn concluded that "Not once across all ages and countries ...
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.
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.
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.