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Girls today. Soooo much more mature at 13 than I was. Between make-up and physical development, some of the girls in 7th grade look like high school seniors. This got me thinking today…why? Is it the hormones in the food we’ve been feeding our kids for the last (at least in my experience) 13 years? I was never overly concerned with staying organic in terms of Kelsea’s diet – it seemed that you have to go all the way with that attitude or it’s pointless – though I always tried to emphasize healthy eating. Pat was more the junk-food supplier.
Think about it. Back in the 12th century, girls were of a marriageable age at 12, which is a year younger than Kelsea. They were often having kids at 13. But the average life expectancy was age 30. And about 50% of children under the age of 5 died. So it made some evolutionary sense to start procreating early, because you had to work twice as hard to keep your child alive, and you weren’t going to live that long yourself. Okay, logical.
As we moved into the prim and proper 1800s, life expectancy increased and the acceptable age for marriage and childbearing became more like 15 or 16. Makes sense – we were living longer, and conditions were somewhat less harsh, so children had a slightly better mortality rate. People even started naming their children at birth – they didn’t used to do so, since the child had such a low likelihood of surviving.
We then enter the prim and proper Victorian era. Young women were chaperoned until the day of their marriage – they were expected to be wed and breeding around the age of 21. With infant mortality rates down to 33%, and average life expectancy up to age 48 by 1901, women could afford to get started having kids later. But why did their maturation rate slow down – why did sexual maturity start occurring later? What evolutionary signal was there that said, “Hold up! We don’t have to do this at age 12.”?
Moving into the kaleidoscope that was the 20th century, we went through different attitudes towards sex, childbirth and the definition of maturity, but we still kept the biological rhythm the same – women developed at about 14 or 15 and up.
And that’s where we catch up to today. Life expectancy is as long as it’s ever been – 78.4 years. The average age for childbirth is 25. And infant mortality rates are 6.7% in the US. So why are girls developing so early? Why are 7-year-old girls dancing suggestively to songs that should be way beyond their understanding? Why is boy-girl drama starting in 3rd grade? By 7th grade, it has escalated to who is making out with who in the stairwell (yes, there are 7th grade “players”) and who may be having sex. I mean, what the heck?
This physical maturity is unfortunately not accompanied by emotional maturity. You can bet your bippy that at 12-year old bride in the Middle Ages knew how to run a household, even a meager mud-hut household. A 12-year old girl today can barely run a dustcloth.
What is the point of this evolutionary change? Particularly since the whole concept of survival of the fittest, which in primitive or animal societies is the natural form of population control, has basically been eradicated due to “civilization”, improvements in medical care, and our system of “justice”? (And why are all these things that are supposed to be “good” in “quotes”? Maybe because I don’t think they’re very “good” – or “working very well”).
Perhaps there is something to this whole 2012 apocalypse thing, and we are reproducing and maturing at a rapid rate because survival of the fittest is about to make a comeback. Or not. As I said before, I don’t have the answers, I just ask the questions.