A Stable Father Prevents the Early Onset of Puberty(?)

Connor Murphy presents below an article that I am broadly sympathetic to but the social scientist in me causes me to have reservations.  He fails to consider that pervasively influential variable:  IQ.  Many people are aware that a high IQ leads to greater educational success but far fewer are aware that it also goes with better health and longer life.

So:  There is no doubt that there is a tendency for girls to mature physically rather earlier than they used to.  There is quite a lot of estrogen or estrogen mimics in modern processed foods so that is really no surprise.  The food freaks are in a constant state of uproar about phytoestrogens, BPAs and the rest in our food. They even warn us that you can get BPAs out of babies' bottles.

But Mr Murphy has other ideas.  He thinks that stress is the culprit.  It may of course be involved but the evidence he adduces for the claim is ambiguous.  He says:

“Boys who grow up in hardship are more than four times as at risk of starting puberty aged 10 than those who grow up in safer, wealthier households. And girls who grow up disadvantaged are twice as likely to start puberty early than others.”

But hardship families are very likely to be low IQ families and low IQs are associated with early maturation. American blacks, for instance, arrive at full growth about two years earlier than whites.  And chimpanzee infants go on to reach maturity as early as 8 years of age. So on balance stress has nothing to do with the tendency observed. The tendency is inborn.

Let us go on. Mr Murphy believes that the presence or absence of the father impacts female maturation:

“On average, a girl whose father divorces or separates from her mother and leaves the family home before she is 10 comes into puberty five months earlier than a girl from an intact family."

But absent fathers are by far commonest at the lowest end of the socio-economic scale.  And that is also the low end of the IQ range.  So again we most probaly have an IQ effect.  The finding can parsimoniously be explained by reference to IQ.  Both the absent father and the earlier maturation are explained by one underlying factor:  IQ

Mr. Murphy then goes on to associate the greatly increased divorce rate with earlier maturation.  But he offers no evidence to that effect. Living with a divorced single mother could well be less stressful that living in an unhappy family where parents are hostile to one-another.  Divorce is normally undertaken as the lesser evil and maybe it is in general.

So I share Mr Murphy's concerns and agree that girls benefit from a good relationship with their fathers but I doubt that he has established that.  On purely observational grounds, however, I have recently argued in favour of a similar view

The cult of modernity requires its adherents to believe that civilisation is on a linear upward path of progress and improvement. Coming to harsh conclusions about the degeneracy and sickness of our epoch is not allowed, despite the evidence of steep decline in core facets of existence like social cohesion, happiness, education, health, relationships, fertility rates, wages and governance.

Every now and then though the commissars of thought in the press make a mistake and accidentally report reality without a view to subversion, normally because they don’t realise the ramifications of what they are reporting on.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published an extract from a book entitled “The New Puberty” by Amanda Dunn, under the title “Something is happening to our kids, and it’s time we talked about it”. The subtitle was “We are seeing a major shift in the development of children, particularly girls. We cannot afford to ignore it and hope it will go away”.

The extract observes that children, and particularly girls, are reaching puberty earlier. The main cause that the extract discusses is childhood obesity, i.e. previous generations did not have calorie surpluses like children do now, therefore the body is effectively receiving calories at such a rate that it “believes” it has the raw materials to begin the adolescent growth and transformation process and therefore does so earlier. In addition, the evidence indicates that menarche has also gotten earlier due to better nutrition as well, i.e. the additional calories are signalling to the body that it now has the availability of resources to create a baby.

Another article from the Herald observed that there was a clear socio-economic and stress link:

“Boys who grow up in hardship are more than four times as at risk of starting puberty aged 10 than those who grow up in safer, wealthier households. And girls who grow up disadvantaged are twice as likely to start puberty early than others.”

The findings suggest that early-onset puberty may be an evolutionary response to trauma and struggle. “When we are raised in sub-optimal living conditions that means we have a higher risk of premature death,” associate professor Sun said. “That means maybe we will die before we’re successfully reproductive, so we would choose an adaptive strategy to mature earlier, to have our first baby earlier, and maybe we could have more kids to ensure our genes transfer to the next generation.”

This was all logical to me so far, the body is responding to stimulus (more calories and/or stress) and reacting in a manner best suited to achieving Darwinian success by passing on its genes. The thing that piqued my interest though, is that while it is well established and acknowledged that our diets are more calorie intensive and that childhood obesity is a problem nowadays, I don’t seem to recall it being as widely acknowledged that modern childhood is significantly worse or sub-optimal, and much interest in analysis of why that is the case.

Let us start with the potential causes of these more stressful childhoods that we are allowed to discuss. Most people will concede that childhood may be more stressful nowadays due to social media and hyper-sexualisation via fashion and popular culture, but these forces are not unstoppable forces of nature. Children are exposed to social media and hyper-sexualisation because adults are choosing to let them be exposed to it. We could choose not to to expose them if we were so inclined. Given the consequences of early puberty, perhaps we should be inclined, “entering puberty young (before 11) correlates with a host of problems, from teenage pregnancy to depression. Only 2% of those who do so go on to enter higher education, regardless of their parents’ IQ and educational level.”

Another major societal change is the large increase in divorce and single mother households. Now this is an area you are allowed to talk about as long as we don’t attribute blame to anyone or to particular social movements:

“On average, a girl whose father divorces or separates from her mother and leaves the family home before she is 10 comes into puberty five months earlier than a girl from an intact family. But the impact of fathers is not limited to whether they are physically present. In intact families, girls reach puberty later if they have a positive rather than a negative relationship with their father; the more he is involved in her upbringing, the later she will have her first period. If the father is absent through illness or work rather than as a result of divorce or separation, the girl’s pubertal age is unaffected. Interestingly, too, an absent mother or a girl’s quality of relationship with her, does not affect the point at which she comes into puberty.”

The end of that quote bordered a little bit on thoughtcrime by implying that a father has a role to play that cannot be filled by a mother, but lets press on:

“Overall, the enormous increase in the divorce rate and in single-parent households since 1960 seems very likely to have played a major role in the decreasing age of puberty. However, it is not clear precisely why an absent or emotionally unengaged father should trigger earlier puberty. The strongest clue comes from the fact that if the father leaves the family home before the girl is six, she is twice as likely to have early first periods and four times more likely to start sex early. It suggests that the disruption to the mother, a lack of cash and all the other problems that go with single parenthood, probably make the girl more likely to be emotionally needy and to be eager to be able to use sexual allure as soon as possible to make people love her. The more times a girl’s family environment changes (with the mother taking new partners) in childhood, the greater the risk of early puberty. If there are three or more new partners, a girl is five times more likely to have a teenage pregnancy.”

Hmmm it might not be clear to the author of that piece why an absent or emotionally unengaged father might be a trigger, but it stands to reason that children are consciously and subconsciously aware if they are under the care and protection of an adult male, i.e. a patriarch. When they know they are not, they are more stressed as a result.


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