Similarities and Differences Based on Sexual Orientation

Similarities and Differences Based on Sexual Orientation

Since little is known about the effect of age on partner preferences in nonheterosexual women, our analyses investigating these effects in lesbian and bisexual women were exploratory. Our results for lesbian and bisexual women confirmed that large sample sizes are needed to determine whether potentially small effects of age on partner preferences are substantial or negligible. Overall, just as in heterosexual women, there was no empirical evidence that age plays an important role in shaping preferences for specific attributes. We did not find the substantial positive effect of age on the preference for confidence-assertiveness in lesbian or bisexual women. Stereotypically male characteristics such as confidence and assertiveness appear to be overall less important for nonheterosexual women in general (see Table S3), and their importance does not increase with age for lesbian or bisexual women.

We found no evidence for linear or quadratic effects of age on preferences for parenting intention in lesbian individuals, potentially indicating that reproductive goals are less salient for these women (see Table S3). For bisexual women, the pattern for age effects on preference for parenting intention resembled the pattern observed in Skandinavian kauniita naisia heterosexual women, even though only the linear age effects were significant.

For all three groups, the age range deemed acceptable increased substantially with age because women accepted younger partners with increasing age while their acceptance for older partners stayed relatively consistent. Overall, the age range deemed acceptable appeared to be larger for lesbian and bisexual women across all ages compared with heterosexual women (see Table S3).

More research is needed to further investigate similarities and differences in age effects on partner preferences based on sexual orientation. In their recent overview, Frederick et al. (2023) concluded that there is a tremendous variety in mating strategies across individuals.


To our knowledge, this study was the first to address the question of age effects on partner preferences in a large, international sample of single women. The analysis sample showed a comparably large age range (18?67), and women were from diverse origins (147 different countries, 10 different languages). By testing preregistered hypotheses with a predefined threshold indicating a substantial effect based on effect sizes previously reported in the literature, we not only were able to detect potential age effects on partner preferences but are also confident to say that, for most preference outcomes, no or only negligible age effects exist. Yet, the inclusion of preference for a partner’s parenting intention added another important aspect missing from previous studies investigating age effects. In addition, employing extensive robustness checks and exploratory analyses, we were able to probe robustness of the attained effects and their generalizability to women with nonheterosexual orientations (namely, lesbian and bisexual women).

Limitations and Future Research

The current study had some limitations that should be considered when interpreting its results. First, participants were mainly recruited using the menstrual cycle tracking app Clue. Therefore, participants might differ from the broader population and from those in previous studies that have looked at age effects. One of those differences is the age structure of the sample itself. To gauge the generalizability of results, it is especially important to define and describe the age groups in the study’s focus. While the oldest women in the current study were around 67 years of age, other studies defined older participants as 65 years and older (e.g., McIntosh et al., 2011) or even 76 and older (Alterovitz & Mendelsohn, 2011). A number of important life events can happen after the age of 67 (e.g., retirement, health degradation), and these events or their anticipation might shape partner preferences. In addition, an evolutionary perspective suggests that at a certain age there might be a switch from mating and parenting effort to grandparenting effort (Coall et al., 2018). Hence, a potential partner could be seen in a grandparenting role and the partner preference attributes deemed to be most attractive might vary accordingly. Therefore, some of the age effects found here as well as their absence for multiple partner preferences might only hold true within the age range observed in the current study (18?67). Future research investigating potential age effects on partner preferences should therefore try to take a more extended perspective on the human life span and also strive to sample participants older than 70.

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