Homo erectus shows he was never a typical teenager.
December 6, 2001 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Homo erectus shows he was never a typical teenager. Is it really the hormones in the chicken we eat that cause teenagers to develop at an early age? Seems like the traditional old paleolithic diet had prehistoric humans skipping the adolescence we cherish so much.
posted by Quixoticlife (16 comments total)
So does that mean they never smoked pot and stood at opposite ends of a high school dance floor?
posted by adampsyche at 11:00 AM on December 6, 2001

well, not at the same time.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:06 AM on December 6, 2001

there are hormones in the water supply too - they don't get filtered out.
posted by panopticon at 11:09 AM on December 6, 2001

I was never coordinated enough to smoke pot and stand at opposite ends of a high school dance floor at the same time. Or maybe I just didn't smoke enough pot.
posted by moss at 11:19 AM on December 6, 2001

Quixoticlife's comment about hormones in food is a complete non-sequitur. The point is that homo erectus had *no* period of adolescence (puberty, whatever), and we do. It is abundantly clear that our development in adolescence is genetically programmed. Effects of our diet are relevant for when we enter adolescence and how we progress, but *not* for the fact that we undergo adolescence at all.
posted by caveday at 11:40 AM on December 6, 2001

Damn, that guy's already a silverback.
posted by hellinskira at 12:12 PM on December 6, 2001

Okay, okay. The abundance of information that I am confronted with to prove that adolescence clearly is, in fact, an inherent phenomena does not disrupt my awe for teen angst and pimples.
posted by Quixoticlife at 12:20 PM on December 6, 2001

wait a minute... isn't it also a factor that life expectancy being ... oh what? about two decades? for early man come into this equation also?
posted by eatdonuts at 1:13 PM on December 6, 2001

hellinskira: I know that reference, *thinks thinks thinks*. Nope can't remember.
posted by viama at 1:33 PM on December 6, 2001

It could also be that homo erectus didn't have the luxury of adolescence, either. Once you made it to the point of sexual maturity, it was time to reproduce.

I mean, there was no Dawson's Creek or mozzarella sticks or malls or Lincoln Park, so, it was like totally boring.

I guess that brings up the question of whether the basis of adolescence lies in genetics or socialization, and I don't have the back-up to make a claim either way.
posted by jennyb at 1:40 PM on December 6, 2001

viama: unless you're joking, it's from a Far Side cartoon.

jennyb: Just going from memory, but I could have sworn I read an article in Discover or something a couple of years ago that suggested (from a few studies of adolescent girls in different social strata) that the on-set of adolescence could be triggered by social factors. In other words, it speculated that teenagers, and in particular teenage girls, could begin their sexual maturity earlier if they were living in a more unstable environment.

It's almost as if nature puts a "Turbo" switch in our genes, so if we're in a nice, safe, environment, we develop at a slower pace- but if we're in an environment that's less stable, nature kicks things into gear so that ideally new babies will be ready to get pumped out ASAP so to continue the species.
posted by hincandenza at 3:50 PM on December 6, 2001

Quixoticlife's comment about hormones in food is a complete non-sequitur.

Uh...how about her comments being...uh...facetious? Ya know, like playfully jocular?
posted by adampsyche at 3:56 PM on December 6, 2001

Also, it has been shown that certain environmental factors (including sexual abuse) can absolutely prompt premature adolesence...i had a neighbor who had this happen to her, and according to her mother she was entering puberty at about 8 or 9. sad story, but she was a great kid. i will try to find a link for that....
posted by adampsyche at 4:12 PM on December 6, 2001

Adam: I was rather tired when I wrote that last comment. I suppose I didn't think of it. ;-) In any case -- I never said environmental factors can't prompt premature adolescence. I said they can't be solely responsible for adolescence. Incidentally, I'd be interested in knowing more about the girl you mentioned.
posted by caveday at 4:44 PM on December 6, 2001

Then you should provide an e-mail adress in your profile. ;-)
posted by adampsyche at 6:14 PM on December 6, 2001

I would like to point out here that childhood and adolescence are both concepts that are extremely plastic--as in flexible and constantly changing--and recent, and that adolexcence in particular has only been around for about a century. Also as plastic, is sex abuse of children--it was legal in my lifetime for 12 year old girls to marry in some states of the South, now a 17 year old boy with a 15 year old girlfriend can get the permanent label 'registered sex offender' in my state. Not to mention the hysteria about professors sleeping with students, too.. There is this whole moral panic aspect about it. Not to mention the cautionary pornography of TV news sex-with-kids/crime,crime, crime coverage--and they're not exactly throwing meat to cows: we're fascinated--we want to condemn it and wallow in it at the same time. What horrifies me is people who think TV news accurately portrays any social problem. Also horrifying to me is the way that we segregate by age now instead of race.

Well, potential thread hijacking aside, let me add artifical lighting as another culprit in earlier menarche. But I wouldn't rule out social transmission: our talking and talking about sex and children and sex and children and sex and teens and sex and teens.
posted by y2karl at 7:14 PM on December 6, 2001

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