Single and searching: how older and younger adults seek romantic partners online
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Despite a growing population of single older adults, past research and theory on romantic relationship formation has primarily focused on younger adults. Online dating has become an increasingly prevalent context for both older and younger adults to form romantic relationships. Nonetheless, adults of different ages may have different motivations for seeking dating partners. Using a framework of agency and communion to synthesize disparate literatures on personal goals, evolutionary motivations, and socioemotional motivations across the lifespan, the current research focuses on age differences in self-presentations in 4000 online dating profiles sampled from two popular online dating websites. Themes in these profiles were identified using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software (LIWC; Pennebaker, Booth & Francis, 2007). Regression analyses revealed significant associations between age and word use. Older adults were more likely to use first person plural pronouns (e.g. we, us, our), reflecting a focus on connectedness as well as words associated with health and positive emotion. Younger adults were more likely to emphasize the self, using more first person pronouns and were more likely to use words associated with work and achievement. Results suggest younger adults focus on enhancing the “self” when seeking romantic partnership. Consistent with theories of adult development, older adults are more positive in their profiles and appear to focus more on the “self” as embedded in relationships.