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Biol Lett. 2007 Dec 22;3(6):689-91.

Parental age difference and offspring count in humans.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna, Aethanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria.


Preferences for certain age characteristics of partners are reported across cultures: men prefer mates who are younger and women prefer mates older than themselves. To examine whether these age preferences entail fitness effects for men and women, we investigated the association among age differences between partners and offspring count. On the basis of a sample of approximately 10,000 post-reproductive Swedish men and women who did not change their partner between the birth of their first and last child, we find maximum offspring count in men if their partner is approximately 6 years younger, and in women if their partner is approximately 4 years older. We further find that after separation, on average, both men and women shift to a partner younger than the first, albeit in women the new partner is still older than the female herself. We conclude that the age preference for the partner yields fitness benefits for both men and women and may thus be an evolutionarily acquired trait.

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