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There is so much cougar hype that we now have a fake cougar and a real cougar.

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Cougar cruises are setting sail, cosmetic surgeons are promising to cougarize their clients and online cougar communities are cropping up. But behind the unleashing of cougars in pop culture is what a growing of sociologists say is a real demographic shift, driven by new choices that women over 40 are making as they redefine the concept of a suitable mate. The reason is that as women have delayed marriage, men still have a tendency to date and marry younger women.

Rethinking the older woman-younger man relationship

Caron, a professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Maine. Caron is an author of a study of couples in which the wife is at least 10 years older, which found surprisingly positive attitudes among the couples, although fear of stigma and insecurity about aging for the women, in particular, were common. The study, published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, reported that the couples thought their age difference mattered more to the outside world than to them, and that the men were more strongly drawn to the relationships at the start because of physical attraction.

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Consistent with most other research and what many relationship experts are saying about these connections, the authors found that women liked the vitality the younger man brought into their lives, and men liked the maturity and confidence in the women, although generational differences sometimes made both partners uncomfortable. Others have also cited infidelity as a stronger possibility in any relationship with a large age difference.

Proulx, the lead author of the study, who is a marriage and family therapist in Maine. That study involved only eight couples, and the samples have generally been small in other research into a subject that has not until recently received much scholarly attention. An analysis of census data on age difference in marriages showed that the of marriages between women who are at least 5 or 10 years older than their spouses is still small, 5.

But both rates doubled between andaccording to Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College, who conducted the analysis.

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At the same time, the data showed that the percentage of marriages of older men and younger women decreased steadily throughand since then it has remained stable. Sociologists say these figures reflect a solid change, if not a major shift in marriage patterns.

But marriage tells only part of the story. Researchers and relationship experts say that a growing of men and older women are dating, or at least contemplating it.

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The women tend to be highly educated and have been married before and are not necessarily seeking out marriage or even cohabitation. Another study by Dr. Caron, incomparing the dating preferences of women 35 to 50 with those of women 20 to 25, found that the older women were much more open to younger men and to crossing lines like race, religion and socioeconomic status.

Prior research, Dr. Caron said, had suggested that women of all ages were looking for the same things in a partner, research that led to the famous Newsweek cover story in that declared a single woman over 40 had a better chance of being blown up by a terrorist than marrying.

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A survey in by AARP of 2, older single women, 40 to 69, found that 20 percent were dating or had recently dated a man at least five years younger. Nightingale, 45, whose husband is five years her junior, estimated a 30 percent increase in such requests from women in the last year.

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But, she added, it is not always easy to persuade the men to participate. Age is just a. Although the study, which has not been published, showed men prefer women their own age to those more than 10 years younger. Moore, who has been married to Mr. Kutcher for four years, has been described as a cougar, but so have sex-starved women slinking through bars for young men to satisfy nothing but physical needs.

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Sociologists studying these relationships generally are looking at women of those ages involved with men 10 to 15 years younger. There is plenty of research on the notion popularized by Alfred Kinsey that women reach their sexual peak much later than men do, so older women and younger men may be especially sexually compatible.

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But economics is also a key factor. Both women and men, particularly as the wage gap has narrowed, are growing more comfortable with the possibility that she is the higher earner, sociologists say.

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And while she may not want to take a slacker under her wing, she is less likely to be focused on the status of her partner than women of generations. The paradox, of course, is that the older-woman relationship makes perfect sense when it comes to life expectancy, with women outliving men by an average of five years. Nonetheless, advice for women who want to pursue younger men abounds in an explosion of magazine articles and books dedicated to cougardom. Franklin said. That certainly does not make them desperate.

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There is an air about older women that can strut their stuff, talk about the stock market, and make young men turn their he for a double take.
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