30 January 2013

A recent Slate article explained the evolutionary advantages of childhood. Bipedalism required thinner birthing hips, which in turn required a shorter gestation period. Whereas other primates have longer gestation periods, human children are born sooner and do more of their developing outside the womb. Since the human brain is not fully formed at birth, humans are better able to adapt to their surroundings.

This talk of the evolutionary advantages of childhood, made me think of the conversations going around emerging adolescence. Emerging adolescence refers to the twentysomething time period in which Western young adults are pushing back careers, marriage, and parenthood. The theory goes that adolescence is a stage of development that did not always exist. It came about because of particular societal changes.

There has been much ink spilled recently over the question of emerging adolescence. Most of the writing has been of the “what is wrong with these kids” variety. It may be fruitful to consider the evolutionary reasons for an emerging adolescence. Most obviously, is the phenomenon of later marriage and childbirth.



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