How Young is Too Young to Date? (2023)

The real rules about old and young you can date

How Young is Too Young to Date? (1)

(Video) How young is too young to date?




(Video) Acceptable Age Gap For Dating? | The View

How Young is Too Young to Date? (3)

The real rules about how old and young you can date.

The “creepiness rule” states that the youngest you should date is “half your age plus seven.” The less commonly used corollary is that the oldest you should date is “subtract seven from your age and double it.”

According to this rule, society should accept a 50 year old man dating a 32 year old woman. A quick poll of my friends says otherwise. Reactions ranged from “sure” to “that’s weird” to “why are you asking me this?”. When I flipped the genders — a 50 year old woman dating a 32 year old man — people’s responses often flipped as well.

This made me wonder, does the creepiness rule actually reflect what is socially acceptable when it comes to age differences in dating? In other words, does the creepiness rule actually reflect what society finds…creepy?

The internet is divided on the topic. Articles and blog posts alternate between claiming age absolutely matters in a relationship and age absolutely doesn’t matter in a relationship. One thing is clear — nothing brings out more opinions than other people’s love lives.

Buunk & colleagues wrote a paper investigating how factors such as age, gender, and type of romantic relationship (casual, serious, marriage, etc.) affect the age limits people place on potential romantic partners.

The researchers approached random people in public and asked them to imagine themselves in a romantic relationship with an attractive person of the opposite sex . The researchers then presented different types of relationships- sexual fantasies, casual affairs, long-term relationships, marriage — and asked the participants what the minimum and maximum age of their partner is for each scenario.

How Young is Too Young to Date? (4)

Aside from the takeaway that you’re allowed to violate all social norms in the name of science, here were the actual results:

  • Women want men around their own age regardless of the type of relationship. Based off a separate analysis using Buunk & colleague’s research, women looked for partners within the creepiness rule guidelines.
  • Men want much younger women for less committed, more private relationships (e.g. sexual fantasies, casual affairs). For those types of relationships, men looked for women younger than the lower limits of the creepiness rule. For more committed and public relationships, men looked for women closer to their own age.
  • Men and women have no interest in dating as old as the creepiness rule allows. Both men and women’s maximum age preferences fell well below the upper limits of the creepiness rule.

The results were interesting but just because I want to date someone much younger than me doesn’t mean I would be okay with someone else doing the same. I still didn’t know whether the creepiness rules actually represented what society finds acceptable.

So I decided to find the answers myself.

(Video) Why you are too young to date...

I tackled this paradigm-shifting research the only way I knew how: I created a survey.

I presented people with hypothetical situations in which their friend, “John” or “Lauren” had started a new romantic relationship that was too early too define[1]. I then gave different ages for their friend — 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 — and asked participants what the socially acceptable minimum and maximum ages of their friend’s new lovers were.

Although I could have hit the streets of New York and surveyed people in-person Buunk style, I decided to mTurk my survey. I try to avoid as much social interaction in my daily life as possible.

For those of you unaware of the modern-day sweatshop that is mTurk (I say this endearingly), you’re missing out. Mechanical Turk is Amazon’s online platform where people pay other people to complete online tasks. This can vary from transcribing a movie, to identifying an item on a receipt, to taking a survey about hypothetical romantic relationships. Within a few days I got 274 responses: 110 male, 163 female, and one person that “preferred not to say”.

The results showed that the creepiness rule is generally too lenient about how young you can date — especially as you get older.

Based on the creepiness rule, a 20-year old John/Lauren can date someone who is 17. This was in line with what people surveyed found acceptable (~18). As John and Lauren got older, however, the creepiness rule differed from how people actually responded. According to the rule, a 60 year-old woman is allowed to date 37 year-olds like nobody’s business. Yet according to the survey, 37 was well outside the age range of what is socially acceptable.

How Young is Too Young to Date? (5)

The results also showed that the creepiness rule is too restrictive about how old you can date when you are young, but becomes too lenient as you get older.

When John/Lauren are 20, the creepiness rules caps their maximum dating age at 26 ([20–7]*2). Yet, people surveyed were fine with John and Lauren seeing someone in their early 30's.

When John/Lauren are 30, the creepiness rule actually lines up with how people responded. The rule states that the maximum age of Lauren’s lover is 46 and according to the survey, the actual acceptable age is 45.4.

When John and Lauren are 60, the creepiness rule allows them to date anyone older than themselves (the official cap is 106). However, society places more restrictive age limits of 71 and 75 respectively.

How Young is Too Young to Date? (6)

Overall, the creepiness rule does not accurately represent what people find socially acceptable; people are more judgmental than what the creepiness rule implies. The rule is too lenient about how old and how young people are “allowed” to date.

I had the answer to my original question, but I wasn’t satisfied. If the creepiness rule is wrong, then I needed a new rule to guide my non-existent love life. As I reviewed the data, I realized that one rule was not enough.

Society has different expectations for men and women — men can date younger than women and women can date older than men.

In the survey, the acceptable minimum age of John’s partners were consistently lower than that of Lauren’s. The difference is small (~6 months) when John/Lauren are young, but increases as John/Lauren get older. By the time they’re 60, John is “allowed” to be with someone three years younger than the youngest Lauren can be with.

How Young is Too Young to Date? (7)

When it comes to dating older, women have the advantage. The acceptable maximum ages of Lauren’s partners were consistently higher than John’s by around 3.5 years.

How Young is Too Young to Date? (8)
(Video) You are too young to be Dating...

Society also has different expectations depending on your position in the relationship — just because it is acceptable for you to date your partner doesn’t necessarily mean it’s acceptable for your partner to date you.

According to the survey, a 20 year-old John can date someone who is 30. However, when Lauren is 30, she is supposed to date someone who is at least 22. Society’s expectations about how old people can date is not always consistent with its expectations about how young people can date.

Given these different expectations, I created four “revised” rules to capture the age limits that society actually finds acceptable. I not only created separate rules for men and women but also created different rules to determine how old and how young each gender can date.

How Young is Too Young to Date? (9)

For men:

Maximum Age of Female Partner = (Man’s Age) + 12

Minimum Age of Female Partner = (2/3)*(Man’s Age) + 2 [At least 18]

For women:

Maximum Age of Male Partner = (Woman’s Age) + 15

Minimum Age of Male Partner = (3/4)*(Woman’s Age) [At least 18]

The charts below compares the outputs of the revised rules with the predictions of the original creepiness rule. I threw in the “At least 18” requirement to help prevent me from ending up on any FBI watch-lists. In almost all scenarios, the revised rules are more restrictive than what the creepiness rule would suggest.

How Young is Too Young to Date? (10)
How Young is Too Young to Date? (11)

I think there are opportunities to build on this oh-so-important research. What is the actual average age difference between couples? How would this research translate to same-sex relationships? Does being wealthy/famous affect what people find as socially acceptable?

At the end of the day, this article was about how people think, not how people should think. Don’t base your relationship decisions on the judgement of other people. Look for relationships that just make you happy.

If you liked this article, visit to read about topics that spark conversations around love, life, and more.

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(Video) Are Primary School Children Too Young to Date? | This Morning

Buunk, B. P., Dijkstra, P., Kenrick, D. T., & Warntjes, A. (2001). Age preferences for mates as related to gender, own age, and involvement level. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22(4), 241–250.

DiDonato, Theresa E. “Who Is Too Young or Too Old for You to Date?” Psychology Today, 02 May 2014. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.

[1] We focused on heterosexual relationships though, homosexual relationships would be an interesting follow-up.


How Young is Too Young to Date? ›

The real rules about how old and young you can date. The “creepiness rule” states that the youngest you should date is “half your age plus seven.” The less commonly used corollary is that the oldest you should date is “subtract seven from your age and double it.”

How much of an age gap is OK? ›

In short, research seems to indicate that in many cultures, an age gap of 1 to 3 years is considered ideal — but some researchers suggest even a relationship with an age gap of less than 10 years will bring more satisfaction.

How young is too young to date at 40? ›

The dating age rule to determining a socially acceptable age difference in partners goes something like this: half your age plus seven (40 = 20 +7 = 27) to define the minimum age of a partner and your age minus seven times two (40 = 33 * 2 = 60) to define the maximum age of a partner.

Is 14 years old too young to date? ›

Rest assured that it's totally normal for a 14-year-old to be interested in dating, and this is a healthy, important part of growing up. However, that doesn't mean that their relationship will look a whole lot like a regular adult relationship.

Is 15 years old too young to date? ›

It's important to consider your child as an individual. Consider their emotional maturity and sense of responsibility. For many kids, 16 seems to be an appropriate age, but it may be entirely suitable for a mature 15-year-old to go on a date, or to make your immature 16-year-old wait a year or two.

Is 17 and 20 a big age difference? ›

A 20-year-old should not be in a relationship with a 17-year-old. While a three-year gap isn't, in itself, absolutely good or bad, even small age differences can be significant for younger people. They may be at different stages of emotional maturity.

What is the healthiest age gap? ›

Research suggests that an age gap of 27 to 32 months may be associated with the best health outcomes for mother and child. In terms of sibling relationship, siblings who are closer in age tend to fight more but are also closer which may have positive benefits for social skills.

What's the youngest a 30 year old should date? ›

It lets you chart acceptable age discrepancies that adjust over the years. According to the rule, for example, a 30-year-old should be with a partner who is at least 22, while a 50-year-old's dating partner must be at least 32 to not attract (presumed) social sanction.

Is 28 too old to be single? ›

Being 28 and single is not a bad thing. Society, friends, culture, all ask the question, “When are you going to get married?” Don't rush to make a lifelong commitment that will change your life forever. If you don't have children my advice is. Babies change your life.

What is the creepiness rule? ›

The “creepiness rule” states that the youngest you should date is “half your age plus seven.” The less commonly used corollary is that the oldest you should date is “subtract seven from your age and double it.”

At what age do boys start liking girls? ›

Some kids may start expressing interest in having a boyfriend or girlfriend as early as age 10 while others are 12 or 13 before they show any interest. The key is for parents to remember that the tween years are a time of transition.

What age is appropriate for dating? ›

Eventually, teens are ready to make the move and start going on what an adult would recognize as a date. Some pediatricians suggest that kids wait until they're 16 to start this kind of one-on-one dating. That's a good place to start the discussion, but every kid is different.

What age do you start feeling love? ›

At 10-14 years, your child might start feeling attracted to others. At 15-19 years, romantic relationships can become central to teenage social lives.

Is 18 dating 15 ok? ›

In a Nutshell: Sex between an 18 year-old and a 15 year-old is illegal in California, meaning any touching of “private parts” of either, even with consent of both parties (and perhaps even the parents of each teenager) is illegal in California because the age of consent is 18.

What age do guys want a serious relationship? ›

Ninety percent of men who have graduated from college are ready for the next step between ages 26 and 33; this is when they are most likely to consider marriage. But this window of opportunity stays open only for four to five years, and then the chances a man will marry start to decline.

Is a 20 year old dating a 15 year old ok? ›

Close in age exceptions

A 14 or 15 year old can consent to sexual activity as long as the partner is less than five years older and there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency or any other exploitation of the young person.

What age gap is too big? ›

A relationship age gap bigger than 10 years often comes with its own set of issues. “While there are always exceptions to rules, a good rule to remember is that dating someone more than 10 years older will present challenges now or later that add to the preexisting challenges any relationship has,” he says.

Is 16 and 18 weird? ›

Is it weird if a 16 year old dates an 18 year old? No, not really. It's fine It's only a 2 year difference. If you wanna have sex it depends on your states/providence consent law.

Is 15 and 17 grooming? ›

No because dating and grooming are two seperate things. You two are in a consentual relationship. Grooming; the action by a paedophile of preparing a child for a meeting, especially via an internet chat room, with the intention of committing a sexual offence.

How many kids are good to have? ›

Two children. Research suggests that having two children is still most people's idea of the 'ideal' family size.

What is the easiest age gap? ›

Possible benefits of a 3-year age gap

According to some research, you may have the lowest risk of labor complications when you have your second baby around three years after your first. Pregnancy may carry less risk for you and your baby.

What is the shortest age gap between siblings? ›

It's technically possible for two siblings to be as close as 9 or 10 months apart. After your pregnancy comes to an end, you'll start ovulating again before you have your first postpartum period.

How many guys are single at 30? ›

New data from the Pew Research Center has shown that 63% of men under 30 are single – up from 51% in 2019.

Is dating harder in your 30s? ›

Some aspects of dating in your 30s make the process harder—such as a shrinking candidate pool. You can no longer meet potential partners at school and probably aren't attending parties and social gatherings as often. These are hot spots for fresh encounters.

What percentage of men are single? ›

Now come new data from Pew, which suggest that among young adults, one-third of women and an astonishing 63% of men are single.

Why is dating in your late 20s so hard? ›

Dating in one's late 20s can be a challenging and often overwhelming experience. The shift in societal norms, the dwindling pool of eligible partners, and the heightened focus on personal and professional goals are just a few of the factors that contribute to the difficulties of dating in this age range.

Is it OK to be single at 32? ›

Being single in your 30s doesn't mean you weren't with someone you thought you'd spend the rest of your life with. It also doesn't mean you'll stay single for the rest of your life too. But for now, as long as it takes to find the right one, you're single and life is easy.

Can you find love at 28? ›

And, according to the findings, the average age you'll find your partner varies from gender to gender. That's right - the research found that the average woman finds their life partner at the age of 25, while for men, they're more likely to find their soulmate at 28.

What age gap relationship is illegal? ›

Age of consent in California: 18 years old. However, there is a “Romeo and Juliet” law that allows minors who are within three years of age of each other and engage in consensual sexual activity to avoid prosecution.

Is it illegal to lie about age dating? ›

Is It Illegal To Lie About Your Age on Dating Apps? It is not illegal to lie about your birth date or provide false information on an online dating app like Tinder or eHarmony. However, in misrepresenting your age, you will have violated the Terms of Service of those respective apps.

Is 19 dating 17 illegal? ›

Yes, it's not illegal for a 19-year-old to date a 17-year-old. States do not impose laws on the ages that you can date.

What grade do girls start to have crushes? ›

When Does a Kid's First Crush Happen? Experts say that kids commonly have their first crush when they're 5 or 6.

What is the average age for a first kiss? ›

Love is in the air

No need to wait for the official first date to get a little face time, however. Americans agree kids are ready for their first kiss at age 15 (15.1 on average), while on average, they had theirs at age 14.5.

What is the most appropriate age for a boyfriend? ›

Most experts agree that the right age to start dating is around 16. Wanting to spend more time with a boy you genuinely care about is a sign you might be ready to start dating.

What is normal dating behavior? ›

Healthy relationships involve honesty, trust, respect and open communication between partners and they take effort and compromise from both people. There is no imbalance of power. Partners respect each other's independence, can make their own decisions without fear of retribution or retaliation, and share decisions.

At what age does infatuation start? ›

And though for most people it happens young, it's certainly not true for everyone. They found 55 percent of people fall in love for the first time between the ages of 15 and 18.

What is the average age people meet their soulmate? ›

According to's findings, women are more likely to meet that special someone earlier in life at age 25, whereas men meet their match closer to 28. However, 50% of the folks the website surveyed all meet their partner at some point during their 20s.

What percentage of people fall in love? ›

Men are much more likely than women—48 percent vs. 28 percent—to fall in love at first sight. Here are some more marriage statistics that might surprise you—like how long the average couple waits before getting married.

Is 14 and 16 a big age difference? ›

An age gap of 10 years or more is considered a big difference. When one person has a decade more life experience than their partner, the couple might be incompatible. You're likely to have different circles of friends, different interests, and different life goals.

Is 16 and 19 a weird age gap? ›

There is nothing wrong with a 19 year old dating a 16 year old. That's a completely normal gap. She isn't much older than him as 3 years is negligible even at those ages. A 19 year old dating a 16 year old shouldn't be a big deal.

Is 15 and 17 weird to date? ›

It's Normal. It becomes odd when she just turned 15, and you're turning 18 in a little bit — where you're a senior & she's a freshman. It isn't crazy — but it can make protective parents concerned. That's really the deciding factor.

At what age are men romantic? ›

The research showed the majority of men do not embrace romance until they are well into their fifties, despite dating from their early teens. Men in their fifties are also more likely to appreciate a bit of romance in their lives and tend to surprise their wives or partners more often than their younger counterparts.

Is it okay for an 18 to date a 16? ›

In the United States, 18 years old is the age of consent. It means that someone who is under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual acts. While the federal government does not have a Romeo and Juliet Law, many individual states do.

Is it worth dating at 15? ›

Having a boyfriend or girlfriend at 15 can help teenagers acquire critical skills and experience that will assist them to have healthy relationships later in life. For instance, they can learn how to face and deal with disputes and breakups.

What is age of consent in Japan? ›

The amendments will also criminalize sex with children under the age of 16 by raising the legal age of consent from 13. Japan's current age of consent has remained unchanged since its enactment in 1907 and is one of the lowest among developed nations.

Is 20 and 25 an okay age gap? ›

There is no hard and fast rule on what kind of an age gap is or isn't acceptable in any relationship. While couples typically tend to have an age gap of around one to three years in many cultures, each individual will have a different comfort level that they feel is right for them.

Is 17 and 14 a bad age gap? ›

No it's not. Girls tend to mature earlier than boys, so you are closer in maturity than you may think. And your friendship is a great start for any relationship.

How big of an age gap is normal in a relationship? ›

While age differences between couples may spark raised eyebrows, they aren't that uncommon. Though the average age gap between people in heterosexual relationships in the US is about 2.3 years,¹ many relationships endure with a much wider age interval.

Is 16 and 18 a bad age gap? ›

A 16-year-old dating an 18-year-old is not a big age difference. It's only 2 years apart in age and a 16-year-old isn't a child equivalent to a 5-year-old, and an 18-year-old isn't an adult equivalent to a middle-aged man. They're both developmentally adolescents in high school.

What is the youngest a 25 year old should date? ›

The real rules about how old and young you can date. The “creepiness rule” states that the youngest you should date is “half your age plus seven.” The less commonly used corollary is that the oldest you should date is “subtract seven from your age and double it.”

What age gap is too high? ›

Couples with an age gap of 1 to 3 years (with the man older than the woman) were the most common and had the greatest levels of satisfaction. Relationship satisfaction decreased slightly for couples with age gaps of 4 to 6 years and continued to decrease for couples with an age gap of 7 or more years.

What is half your age plus seven rule? ›

The rule suggests the younger person in a relationship should be older than half the older person's age plus seven years in order for the relationship to be socially acceptable.

What age gap is considered grooming? ›

This is why many statutory rape laws have a three year age stipulation. Anything with a minor when there is more than a three year age difference is unhealthy for the minor.

Is it OK for a 22 to date a 18? ›

Legally, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship since, in all states, 18 is considered an age of consent, and both parties involved are considered adults.

Do men care about age? ›

Yes, a younger man falling for an older woman is more common than many think. There are many reasons why younger men fall for older women, but most commonly, he admires her maturity and experience associated with being an older person.

Is 19 and 17 ok? ›

A person under the age of 18 years cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse. The age of consent is the same for both males and females. Therefore, if you are 19 years old and have sex with a 17-year-old, you could be arrested for a sex crime.

Is 13 and 16 a weird age gap? ›

Age is not really the issue, and biologically, young women are about two years ahead of most young men in physical (and sometimes emotional) maturity. So the age gap is not as great as it would be for a 16 year old young woman with a 13 year old young man.

What is the age of consent in the United States? ›

In the majority of states (34), it is 16 years of age. In the remaining states, the age of consent is either 17 or 18 years old (6 and 11 states, respectively). Note: Some states have marital exemptions. This Table assumes the two parties are not married to one another.


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