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Many arranged marriages have been age-disparate, with the husband being much older than the wife.Mail-order brides have been frequently younger than their husbands.Sultans from the Middle-East maintained entire harems of much younger women.Other historical examples include John Rolfe and Pocahontas, and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder (both ten-year differences) in America; William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway (eight-year difference) in England; and Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, was 15 years younger than his first wife Khadija.Age disparity in same-sex male relationships was even more historically common than age similarity in such relationships.(Such relationships were practised in Ancient Greece, pre-Modern Japan, Melanesia, Islamic lands and Renaissance Italy.) Monarchs have traditionally exercised the freedom to choose younger spouses; Henry VIII, for instance, chose women far younger than himself as some of his wives, and a number of female monarchs have chosen younger consorts.
Younger partners, on the other hand, may be seeking a parent figure, or just somebody to provide life guidance.This may be brought about as an arranged marriage, or either member may pursue and initiate the relationship in those societies that favor freer association.Situations involving a younger male with an older female also exist, but are not as common.Widely-varying age of consent laws have been passed to deter adults from entering sexual relationships with underage minors.
There is also the issue of whether all age-disparate relationships fall under the definition of paraphilia.
As is speculated with other practices considered paraphilia, sexual imprinting may play a role in age-disparate relationships.