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Generation X Study Finds Changing Age Pattern for Love

( - July 16, 2003) Generation X, the children of baby boomers who are now aged between 18 and 34, is showing itself to be quite distinct from previous generations of Americans where love and romance are concerned, according to a nationwide study by American Consumer Opinion, a worldwide online panel that pays people for their opinions.

A recent survey of 744 men and women, drawn from a balanced sample of the 3.5 million-strong American Consumer Opinion Online panel, found that respondents under the age of 35, regardless of gender, were likely to have fallen in love for the first time at a younger age than did older respondents, had fallen in love more often while they were young, and had enjoyed substantially fewer restrictions on their romantic activities than had previous generations.

The average age at which the under-35s reported experiencing their first "crush" was approximately 9.5 years of age, a full year younger than for those aged between 35 and 44. For those over-55s who completed the study, their first crushes had come even later. Most of these respondents reported they were more than 11 years old when they first experienced a "crush."

As well as being early starters, Generation Xers also appear to have fallen in love more frequently than older American generations. By the age of 18, the under-35s had been "romantically attracted" an average of 11.7 times.

In marked contrast, their immediate elders (the 35-to-44 age group) reported only seven (an average of 7.1) such romantic attractions before the age of 18, and the over-55s claimed only five (5.0) young romances.

Such differences might at first glance appear an indication that love has been trivialized by younger generations, for it is unlikely that young Americans are simply more drawn to love and romance than their parents. Yet an alternative explanation is revealed by the study — Generation Xers have been given far more freedom to pursue love and romance than have any other generation.

When asked at what age "you were first allowed to date," the most popular response from the under-35s was that they "did not have any age restrictions" (25.4 percent of the total). Yet just 13 percent of over-35s had been similarly free to date when they were young (13.3 percent). Moreover, the trend towards less parental interference in dating appears to be increasing.

Within the under-35 age group, those aged between 18 and 24 were most likely to report they were unhindered in their dating (36.6 percent of this group did not have any age restrictions).

Such responses appear to show that American society is increasingly willing to allow the young freedom to develop their own relationships. On the other hand, perhaps it is just a recognition that the challenges of love and romance now affect almost every American, no matter what their age.

Methodology: For its 2003 "U.S. Romance Study," a balanced sample of 744 participants was selected from American Consumer Opinion® Online, with nearly 3.5 million participants. This study's margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent at a 90 percent confidence level.

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