Modern dating myths dispelled as study reveals cougar women do not exist… but aging men still hopeful of young, attractive partner 

16/12/2009 12:30 


THE likes of Madonna and Demi Moore are said to be influencing a whole new generation of ‘cougar’ women who see much younger men as their goal when looking for a long-term partner.

But this notion of the ‘toy-boy’ phenomenon is dispelled as a myth which only exists in the world of celebrity rather than reflecting real life, by a new study into online dating.

The study, carried out at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC), revealed that both men and women are actually still rather traditional when it comes to searching for their ideal partner; with women seeking an older - and therefore hopefully wealthy - man.

Men on the other hand, desire a young and attractive female, and are not deterred from showing a preference for a much younger partner as they themselves age.

These findings, which will be published shortly in the internationally acclaimed journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, could come as a surprise in this day and age with women now able to enjoy successful careers and financial independence; no longer needing a man to look after them as may have been the case in the past.

But neither sex should be accused of being shallow or stereotypical – these desires when searching for the perfect partner are apparently hard-wired into us as it is linked to evolutionary theory.

Dr Michael Dunn of UWIC’s Cardiff School of Health Sciences, led the study which involved analysing the age preferences of 22,000 advertisers (men and women) using online dating sites across 14 separate cultures and two religious groups.

Explaining the study and results further he said: “A critically important consideration for advertisers on online dating sites appears to be the age of a potential partner.

With reference to age preferences, a commonly held assumption is that with the advent of female financial independence, women are now free to target males of any age group, as securing financial security from older, wealthier males is no longer a priority. The transference of female desire from relatively older men to relatively younger men it has been argued, is reflected by the growth of the ‘toy boy’ phenomenon.

“The results of our research challenges these assumptions: Although there was some cultural variation in extremes, the results showed clearly that women across all age groups (20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50) and cultures, targeted males either their own age or older.

“A strikingly different pattern of age preferences were evident in men. Younger men (20-25) either targeted females their own age or marginally younger. However, as males aged, they clearly expressed a preference for women increasingly younger than their own age, with this pattern also being cross-culturally consistent.

“These findings are clearly supportive of evolutionary theory. A wide variety of evidence has shown that women, when considering a potential long-term partner, focus more than males on cues indicative of wealth and status and these logically accumulate with age.

“Males conversely focus more intently on physical attractiveness cues and these are clearly correlated with the years of maximum fertility.”

Notes to Editors:

Dr Michael Dunn is a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC). He carried out the research with graduate students Lara Clark and Stacey Brinton.

His research involved exploring the age preferences in men and women (22,000 advertisers on online dating websites) across 14 countries and two religious groups.

Religious groups: Christianity and Islam.

Countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Greece, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, UK & Ukraine.

If you would like to arrange an interview with Dr Dunn, please contact the UWIC Press Office (details below)

For further information contact Sarah Huckson, Press Officer, Tel: 029 2041 6221, or e-mail: