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Although the "cougar" theme, in which older women date much younger men, is often portrayed in the media as a widespread and established facet of modern Western culture, at least one academic study has found the concept to be a "myth".
A British psychological study published in Evolution and Human Behavior in 2010 concluded that men and women, in general, continued to follow traditional gender roles when searching for mates.
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.
Some women complain that men in their 60s are only looking for “a nurse or a purse” (actually, preferably both together!
Dunn concluded that "Not once across all ages and countries ...
did females show a preference for males significantly younger than male preferences for females" and that there was a "consistent cross-cultural preference by women for at least same-age or significantly older men".
There are also social theories for age differences in relationships as well as suggested reasons for 'alternative' age-hypogamous relationships.
Age-disparity relationships have been documented for most of recorded history and have been regarded with a wide range of attitudes dependant on sociocultural norms and legal systems. Relationships with age disparity of all kinds have been observed with both men and women as the older or younger partner.
A 2003 AARP study reported that 34% of women over 39 years old were dating younger men.