What is the big deal with having sex early?

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by visceral_instinct, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps they mean those things in a financial, rather than emotional, sense.

    Likewise, it makes more sense if you substitute "pregnancy" in place of "sex."
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  3. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    So near as we can tell, people have been having sex staring at around biological child rearing age for a most of human history, so I tend to be skeptical of theories that suggest that childrens' minds warp and shatter at the occurrence.

    More likely that aspect of it is social, a derived from a combination of the sexual partner often having and abusing power he or she may have over the other partner and society treating the child as "damaged", which the child then internalizes (and which, in turns, leads to a cycle of acting like a victim, being treated like a victim and internalization of the heightened sense of victimization).

    Studies I have read suggest that having a baby at 14 is pretty safe from a maternal mortality rate perspective (especially as compared to 35 and older). Combined with the fact that 14 years old is pretty solidly in the early fertile years, I think one would have to conclude that either our biology is perverse and maladaptive, *or* we evolved in a setting where 14-18 year olds were getting pregnant.

    Granted that the age at which fertility sets in has been dropping in recent years, but it is hard to say whether that deviation is or is not something similar to what early women would have experienced. It might well be dropping not because of nefarious and harmful chemicals and hormones in food (as if often supposed), but because of "better" diet (better in various possible senses, including "higher calorie", which may not be healthier in all cases.). I am not saying that is so, but that speculation is at least as valid as the alternative.

    I have difficulty believing that the body is routinely prepared for things that would in the typical case seriously adversely affect the mind.

    It certainly adversely impacts one's position in a materialist society, and so it should be avoided for that reason, but that is the conflict. Our society does things for reasons other than survivability of the species, and that is the trait that natural selection favored up until now. We are left convincing teens to make materially optimal choices, while we all contend with a mind and body evolved around a different principle.

    Yet, despite evidence that parenthood is a net negative to overall happiness for most people, we still all (or mostly all) indulge eventually.
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  5. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Facts/information is only half the equation. It also requires a level of maturity to process that information - and most teens simply have not achieved that stage yet.

    We went through this *entire* maturity thing in that thread about teen's brains. If you've read it then you know there was a TON of research-developed evidence that clearly showed they lacked the mental maturity that adults normally have. As the authors of one major study put it (rather bluntly), the "wiring configuration" of their brains is not yet completed. In fact, one recognized neurologist said that process isn't finished until about age 22 on the average.

    It's also worth noting that teens are also at a stage where their hormones are raging and they haven't yet learned to control that either.

    Bottom line? The odds are stacked against them being able to make a truly rational, intelligent decision.
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  7. WillNever Valued Senior Member

    We evolved in an age where 14 year olds were getting pregnant? Not quite. Throughout *MOST* of human history, child rearing age was much later than it is now for most females. It's true that in the days of the cavemen, girls were making babies as soon as physiologically possible. However, in the days of the cavemen, the babymaking part only became physiologically possibly by the time females were at an age we now consider them to be adults.

    Nature didn't account for humans ingesting high calorie diets or artificial antibiotics and hormones in their food. The decrease in the age at menarche is artificially induced. Girls' reproductive organs are maturing faster while their brains -- as far as we know -- are maturing at the same rate they always have. From a biological standpoint, I can think of a number of reasons why nature would select against overly young mothers, as far as their brain development is concerned. Back in those days, women of a child-rearing age could handle themselves on their own. Today, they can't.

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    Talk about a sharp decline. Only a few thousand years ago, I'm sure that most women were 18 at their menarche... at LEAST. This could set a precedent for the so-called "age of consent" that a lot of people are against.

    source of the graph: one of my nursing reference books
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  8. codanblad a love of bridges Registered Senior Member

    beats me.
  9. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    In ancient Rome and Judea girls wsere married off and often having children at 12-15y.

    Contrary to the conclusion you are drawing by extrapolating from your graph, studies suggest that the average age of menarchy in the paleolithic was 7-13 years old, not 18.


    In fact even in the malnourished times there are famous cases. Queen Eleanor of Provence had her first child at age 14 or 15, and Napoleon's mother had 5 children by the time she was 20-21. Then, of course there are the truly odd cases, like Lina Medina giving birth at age 5-6.

    There are also studies, though nothing conclusive, that suggest the effect is entirely natural and based on factors like the increase in body fat (which was also higher for hunter-gatherers than it was for their relatively less well nourished post-agricultural revolution descendants). Then again I have also seen studies linking it to artificial hormones, also not entirely conclusive.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  10. WillNever Valued Senior Member

    I am afraid that isn't likely panda, else where is the experimental data they used to reach that conclusion..? Exactly how did they reach those findings? I see only one study that you found on page one of google. Was this experiment duplicated elsewhere?
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  11. shorty_37 Go! Canada Go! Registered Senior Member

    My son is going to be 14 this summer, and I sure don't want him having sex anytime soon.
  12. sandy Banned Banned

    To answer the OP question--having sex too soon/early changes the relationship and changes you as a person. Innocence is lost and many who start early are hardened by 18. I don't think people should have sex until they are married. Women bond to men during/after sex. A hormone is released during sex that connects them to the man (oxytocin?). If she has an orgasm it is even more intense. Women can get screwed up by having sex outside committed relationships. They feel used, dirty, and shameful. I also think sex gets more enjoyable for women the older they get. Most women over 40 I know say this. Teenage girls are not usually looking for sex--they are looking for love and acceptance missing in the home. Teenage boys are high on testosterone and looking for relief.
  13. Dr Mabuse Percipient Thaumaturgist Registered Senior Member

    If stupid was people, this thread would be China.
  14. NECROSHADE 50 Registered Member

    some need to get rid off strees or to be cool
  15. clusteringflux Version 1. OH! Valued Senior Member

    oh, damn near spit coffee on my screen. Thanks.
  16. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    I do not have a copy of the study to share with you, but Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism is in a peer reviewed scientific journal. You can disagree, if you like, but disagreeing without any evidence save your graph seems a stretch.

    I mean, funnily enough I thought the same about your graph. We don't have very much accurate data on age of menarchy in the early 20th century and even less from the 19th century, and especially not neatly broken out by nation, so most of that "data" struck me as likely just estimated, projected or invented wholesale by someone who wanted it to be true. Plus it's very inconsistent with what we know to be true of medieval and earlier history.

    What I have states is consistent with what we believe we know of the age of marriage in ancient Rome, and most ancient cultures where I have seen the age of marriage discussed. The age of marriage in Rome has been debated for centuries now, but it is now the general consensus that 14 years is a reasonable approximation of the average age at which Roman women married, and it is known that that was considered to be post-puberty and pre-full majority (which majority occurred at 27-30 years old depending in the time period). Amongst Roman aristocracy, marriageable age may have as low as 11 or 12. At that point, the girl was sent to live with her husband (who would have been about 18 years old or older) whether she was legally subject to the power of her husband or her father as pater familias (which turned on the type of marriage involved).

    If you have a JSTOR account, this is one of the seminal articles evaluating the debate: http://www.jstor.org/pss/2173291 The notion that Roman women were not married until 18 has long been abandoned though it was popular among the Victorians.

    Similarly in ancient Greece it was famously suggested (by Hesiod, amongst others) that men be 30 years old and marry a girl of 15 or 16, because they would be past puberty, and yet likely to be virgins. For a cite, see Robert Flacciere, Daily Life in Ancient Greece at the Time of Pericles, p 59 (Harper Collins 1970), which I have not been able to locate online.

    The same is true in ancient Israel, where the age of marriage was after the onset of puberty and generally regarded to be about 13-14 years old for most girls. See http://www.theology.edu/marriage.htm Later in the history of ancient Israel, and around Roman times, rabbis fixed the minimum age of marriage at 12 for girls and 13 for boys, which suggests that someone was at least considering marriages with partners younger than that. See here for the cite: Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, page 29, Part 3, "Choosing the bride"

    We clearly read different things, but my sources are somewhat varied and relate to somewhat more ancient periods than yours, and they don't bear out your "18 at least" speculation. In fact, assuming your graph is accurate, they seem to call into question how the onset of menarche got to be that late in the industrializing west, and I'd speculate (as the Trends in Endochrinology and Metabolism article suggests) this there may have been a serious dietary deficiency in Europe and related issues of pre-natal development that was artificially delaying menarchy. (You can at least see the abstract of that article for free, here: http://www.cell.com/trends/endocrinology-metabolism/abstract/S1043-2760(05)00260-2

    I do agree that it is now declining below what prevailed at least at the between around 1000 B.C. to 500 A.D. (Although again, medieval records suggest women giving birth in their early teens , or even as young as 12, suggesting that the onset of menarchy might not have shot up after 500 A.D. either.) I disagree though that the age of the onset of menarchy for humans naturally hovered around 18 until artificial factors accelerated it.

    I would say that taking a relatively modern trend and simply extrapolating it back into the distant past, let alone back to pre-historic settings is fraught with the potential for error on both sides, but I tend to think that a healthy girl, with healthy and high calorie diet will tend to experience the onset of menarchy earlier, not later. From a common sense point of view, if the good times were rolling for that girl which afforded her that great health and an excellent diet with surplus calories, it would have been maladaptive to delay the onset of fertility, as that is precisely when the girl has the resources to successfully care for a child. It makes far more sense to me that menarchy would arise earlier as an adaptation to periods where such a nimiety of food and good health existed, and be delayed in cases where those were not present.
  17. WillNever Valued Senior Member

    Observation --> Hypothesis --> Experimentation --> Conclusion --> Documentation

    What you have linked to me contains no information except the conclusion, panda. It does not even state a very general explanation of the method, so we have no idea how that conclusion was even reached. Disagreeing is not a stretch at all... and definitely not when no one seems to have duplicated whatever experiment those *two* researchers used to come to that conclusion. Meanwhile, we know for a fact that the median age of menarche was higher in the past than it is now. We do not know that it was ever lower before that. Citing some historical examples of royalty who produced children younger while living a vastly different lifestyle than the people of their time does nothing to change that.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  18. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    The cites provided for ancient Rome, Israel and Greece were not limited to royalty, save where clearly indicated, but were examples of common experience.

    Moreover, the notion that one cannot cite to a peer reviewed article as evidence, based on an unstudied and unreviewed denial by "some guy on the interwebs" on the implicit theory that your bare opinion and their peer reviewed article are of co-equal validity is clearly not the typical standard. I do not have their data, but given the context of their conclusion, the ball is in your court to come up with more than "nuh-uh." (Though I note that the response "I am skeptical, but do not have the evidence to refute their conclusion at the moment" is perfectly understandable. To say "they are wrong though I do not have the evidence to refute them," is a strange position, based on your not liking what they conclude.)

    Plus, we all agree that the onset of menarchy was higher in the recent past, so it's a straw man to suggest that refutes anything. Much like temperature data, though, that it was hotter during the medieval warm period does not mean the Ice Ages never occurred. Even assuming the validity of the data shown in your graph prior to 1940 (which seems likely to me to be spurious in any event), the extrapolation of your graph is simply not supportable, even back 1,500 years earlier, let alone 15,000 or 150,000. That is generally true, but especially so in light of the facts I have given regarding ancient marriage practices. Nothing in this world is conclusive, but it's clear that the balance is favoring me at the moment.

    If you'd like another example, in ancient China, specifically to encourage childbirth, the legal (Confucian-doctrine driven) marriage age was once lowered from 20 for girls down to 13. Why do that if 13-18 year olds are infertile?

    Your belief that 18 (or higher) is some sort of natural age of the onset of menarchy, or that anything lower is a modern defect, is not historically supportable.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  19. visceral_instinct Monkey see, monkey denigrate Valued Senior Member

    I didn't say their brains were fully mature. But it doesn't take all that much cognitive ability to figure out what the safe thing to do would be. Of course we are not as wise as we will be, but I don't remember being so hormone/emotion addled I couldn't ask myself a question and figure out a rational answer.

    For example, a girl is with her boyfriend she has been with for a year, they want to have sex, possible choices:

    1. Have sex, don't use a condom
    2. Don't have sex
    3. Have sex, use a condom, make sure you put it on properly, etc...

    How much cognitive skill does it take to choose 3? If you were talking about a very complex situation where lots of factors were at play, yes, a teen would have a hard time handling that - but I don't see how this applies here.

    We are still maturing, yes, but not outright morons.

    Could you give me a concrete example of what such a situation might be?

    Having sex only until marriage is WAY too much of a leap. You would have no idea how to handle the emotions that go with it because you had never had any experience before.

    Uh...I had sex outside of what most people would call a committed relationship. I'm not screwed up. I enjoyed the sex and the closeness that came with it, and accepted it and moved on when we broke up. Oh, and I definitely wasn't looking for love and acceptance. You might want that, not all females do.
  20. WillNever Valued Senior Member

    Nay, the ball is in your court to provide a general explanation of how they reached those conclusions. One sentence would be enough. If we want to do this the scientific way, then we do not believe things without understanding the reasoning behind them, nor do we believe things just because we are told that a couple of researchers have said so and got published. Instead, we accept things with the knoweldge of WHY those things are true. Surely a sentence about how they came to those findings is not difficult for you to provide.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  21. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    Okay, if you only want a description and not their data, great. Based on skeletal remains, one can often tell a few things, specifically: (i) the sex and approximate age of the deceased at the time of death and (ii) whether that person has started to undergo changes related to the onset of puberty. Menarche is a key event in puberty for girls, and thus the appearance of such skeletal changes is highly correlated with the onset of menarche.

    Combining those facts, and assuming that remains of paleolithic humans discovered are typical of the population as a whole, you generally see that such girls below the age of 7 generally show no signs of pubescence. The remains of girls in the range of 7-12 often do show some signs, and the remains of girls older than 12 almost always do.

    Given that the ages of the deceased are often only approximate, and the signs of puberty sometimes arguable, the authors' range for the onset was 7-13, though I am sure they'd agree there is some room to date aroiund or within that range.

    Am I correct that your conjecture is that ancient human women typically saw the onset of menarche at an age of 18 or higher? Given that you are not addressing it, I feel like I am perhaps mischaracterizing your position?

    Assuming I am correct, what is your support for your theory? (Surely not just trends in the past few centuries.) Do you dispute the history I have discussed? Do you believe that the history is likely correct, but that those girls being married off were all pre-pubescent (possibly that social convention would prohibit consummating the marriage for several years)? Do you have sources other than the extrapolation of the graph that support your conjecture?

    [Edit: Oh, and by the way, I was mistaken about China. In ancient China the legal age of marriage for girls was 15, rather than 20 (though Confucians argued 20 was better), and it was later dropped to 13 to encourage an increase in the birthrate. So either the Chinese were remarkably irrational, or 13 and 14 girls in ancient China were capable of conceiving children. Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12285484]
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  22. WillNever Valued Senior Member

    The relevant quotation in the article about Judea talks about marriage, not menarche. It states that marriage took place *either* at puberty or by the age of 13. This is not evidence that menarche took place at 13. As well, the of the book you cited talks about the minimum age for marriage, stating "in later days rabbis fixed the minimum age for marriage at twelve years for girls and thirteen for boys." It says nothing about menarche.

    However, according to another article from a peer reviewed endocrinology journal, and from one that we can actually see, menarche for girls started by the end of 16 years of life and the starting reproductive age for *most* women was around 19. Check it out:
    Indeed, it were only when agriculture was developed that menarche took place earlier. Obviously an agricultural setting is not the environment that humans evolved in for most of their time on this planet.

    By the way, I happened to find the article by Gluckman and Hanson from Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism that you are promoting and in full text. Quotation:
    In other words, it's pure supposition partially based on chimpanzees. There is no experimental data, and paleolithic menarche is not even the focus of the article.

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    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  23. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    Okay, now apply your own standards, what experiments did they conduct? Surely you are not satisfied with a bare "data indicate" statement, since they don't even suggest what or whose data they are looking at for those estimates? I point out that menarche onset is also not the focus of this article either, it is essentially just an aside in that one paragraph.

    Historically speaking it is pretty well established that Roman, Greek and Israeli marriage practices had a strong preference for marriage only after puberty, even when arranged, which is why I would suggest marriage ages correlate with the onset of menarche.

    I will read the article in full, though, anf let you know if it sways me

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