Boys are now maturing physically at increasingly younger ages — the age of sexual maturity has decreased by about 2.5 months each decade since the middle of the 1700′s. Joshua Goldstein, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock (MPIDR), came to this conclusion by examining mortality data that has revealed that the time period when boys are sexually mature but not yet considered adults socially has been growing over the years.
In the case of boys, nutrition and better resilience to disease are thought to play a role so that, as Goldstein puts it, “being 18 today is like being 22 in 1800.” According to Science Daily, Goldstein analyzed mortality data:
When male hormone production during puberty reaches a maximum level the probability of dying jumps up. This phenomenon, called the “accident hump,” exists in almost all societies and is statistically well documented.
The “accident hump” occurs because, as testosterone release reaches its maximum, young men — or as we might say, adolescents and teenagers — participate in especially risky behavior, namely, “dangerous and reckless shows of strength, negligence, and a high propensity to violence,” which lead to an increase in the number of “fatal accidents.” The probability for such fatal events remains low, but the rate at which such occur does increases dramatically (see the graph at Science Daily).
In analyzing demographic data, Goldstein found that
… the maximum mortality value of the accident hump shifted to earlier age by 2.5 months for each decade since the mid-1700s, or just over two years per century. Accordingly, the age of boys’ sexual maturity decreased at the same rate. Essentially, the data showed that the age of sexual maturity is getting younger and younger since the accident hump is occurring earlier and earlier. (Research included data for Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Great Britain and Italy. Since 1950 the data is no longer clear but indicates stagnation.) The maximum of the accident hump occurs in the late phase of puberty, after males reach reproductive capability and their voice changes.
Goldstein also says that the lowering of the age of maturity for boys is “biological” because the decline in the accident hump “began long before the intervention of the automobile (accompanied by a high risk of accident),” as well as of other “technological advancements [such as guns] or social activities.”
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