Bleedin’ obvious question, really

It occurred to me recently that one of our problems is that we are reaching puberty too young.   

If you google for “age of menarche” three things are clear. 

  1. Girls are having their first periods younger
  2. If you compare now with the 1970s or the 1950s, it isn’t actually that much younger, just a matter of months or so (13.2 years to 12.5)
  3. Accurate figures for the first half of the 20thC and for times before then are even harder to find, though what information there is suggests the difference might be 18 months or a couple of years

It is interesting to think that the average age of menarche in the 19th century may have been almost 15 (in Norway it was over 16).  These days it is just over 12.

You see, I find myself wondering to what extent a later menarche gave  young women a valuable extra two or three years’ growing up before the hormonal storm of puberty; to what extent it gave their personalities and intellects a chance to mature and settle down.  I find myself wondering if one reason why today’s generation of drunken ladetts and attention-seekers, the generation in their 20s and early 30s,  can seem so immature and childish is that the emotional roller-coaster of puberty just happened too young. Did they lose out on the chance to get some joined-up-thinking in before the hormones hit?

It’s annoying that the figures are so hard to find.  There’s an article from an Australian newspaper which says:

“The age of menarche, a girl’s first period, has dropped dramatically over the past century, from about 14 or 15 in 1900 to about 11 or 12 now”  

This seems to be useful data to base my theory on, but the article doesn’t reference its sources.  However Google Answers provides similar data from other parts of the world with some sources referenced, so maybe the data is good enough for the blogosphere. 

It’s no more than a theory, that one reason we have so many childish, selfish, insecure and vain little drama queens these days is that good nutrition (and hormones in the chicken, maybe) robbed them of the chance to grow up. 


7 responses to “Bleedin’ obvious question, really

  1. Is it your last paragraph? Or is it that we are – at least in the US/West – far more wealthy than ever and we simply spoil children, while avoiding spending time with them and showing them love (which would make them more loving, secure, and potentially less vain)?

    I’m not ready to blame this on nutrition or menarche – although the later is concerning. . .

  2. Blame is such a strong word. I hesitate to assign blame (other than to Blair and Bush, for taking us into a wicked and unnecessary war, but that is another rant for another day.) But I like to understand the causes of things. And of course, you are absolutely right.

    If we gave our daughters good upbringings rich with healthy love and attention and did not try to buy their affection with expensive tat, then they would be more ready for the emotional storm whenever it arrives.

    As I said, it was just a thought, just a question.

    Thank you for reading, and thank you for commenting.


  3. It’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure what the reasons are behind the young women who prolong truly growing up for so long. Some of it could possibly be blamed on youth worship. It seems historically that youth used to be a stage to be endured, sort of looked on with sweet and knowing smiles by elders. Now, it’s something to hang on to forever, if possible.

    However, I have to say that based on my own experience, I seem to meet nothing (at work, at the school where my husband went until recently, the young women I knew as kids who are all grown up now) but twenty-and-early-thirty-something women who are so much more together at that age than I was. I find myself admiring them and thinking, “Boy, I wish I’d thought that way when I was 26.”

    I’m pretty convinced, though, that any problems that exist come from our society’s never-wavering insistence that the most important thing for women to do, still, despite how far we think we’ve come is to find a man and to make sure she gets married before it’s too late. This kind of pressure paired with ever-increasing mixed messages from the media about sex and women’s rights, I think are to blame more than anything else.

  4. Im blog bouncing. This post caught my eye. I think that one factor that is affecting the menstural cycles of women are the foods that we are eating. This generation, is much more fatter than ever before. The amount of process foods we consume has reached new peaks.

    Also, I think the over sex-ation has an affect on things as well. The endocrine system and all of it’s hormones, are becoming more and more actice, as younger girls are being expose to multi-sources of sex and lust. The brain and hormones are far outpacing the body.

    Funny, but we talked about over Christmas dinner this past year.

  5. Emily, What a good way of describing how previous genearations thought about youth, “looked on with sweet and knowing smiles by elders”. I would not trade being even a year younger if it meant losing what I’d learned. There’s no way I’d want to lose a decade or more. (Though I wouldn’t object to a decade’s incresased joint mobility!)

    I’m not sure the kids now are cooler than we were. We had houses younger and we had kids younger (those of us who had kids). I admit that I spent most of my 20s schlepping around professionally, but when I look at the higher echelons of the company I work for it is full of people of my generation who got on with their careers younger. Most of the time when I look at kids in their 20s I just feel maternal and fond.

    I guess women will always have that pressure, if not to find a man before it is too late, then to have children before it is too late. And rightly so, for the sake of the children. For the children of parents in their late 30s and late 40s, it seems to be a big age gap in a small family.

    Hi Justin, thanks for bouncing by.

    You are right about the foods. I spoke to a doc about this, and he said that the key factor is thought to be the proportion of body-fat. Skinny little kids hit puberty later.

    I’m not sure about the over sex-ation (great word!) being a cause though. Peronally, I think it might be an effect. Let’s face it, hormones are stronger than just about anything. Perhaps the over sex-ation is because of market demand. Little sexually-mature pre-teens and early teens are curious about sex, and that has filtered through to the tv stations and the manufacturers. Maybe. I dunno. It’s just a thought of mine.

    I do think that we should really consider how much fat our children eat though.

    Thanks to both of you for commenting.


  6. Make Tea Not War

    I think “adulthood” is tending to be deferred in some ways-= in first world western countries- but I think the reasons are primarily economic and to do with how the bar keeps rising in terms of the qualifications needed to carve out a place in the workforce. Once upon a time school leavers (in New Zealand) could expect a job if they left school at 15. No longer true. Simultaneously we have seen an end to decent support of students when they are studying- now we have student loans- and at the same time house prices have soared. Its just that much harder to get to a place where someone is established enough economically to settle down or even to leave the parental nest. Don’t forget the effects of casualisation of work too.

  7. That’s interesting as well, Make Tea. In the UK the government is proposing to bring in compulsory education until the age of 18.

    These have been the leaving ages in the UK:

    1893 – leaving age raised to 11
    1899 – leaving age raised to 12
    1918 – full-time education compulsory from 5 to 14
    1947 – leaving age raised to 15
    1972 – leaving age raised to 16

    I heard this on the radio, which gave much fuller reporting. The radio piece explained that it was not talking about raising the school-leaving age, but increasing the provision of colleges and vocational training. It was also saying that now 40% or thereabouts of jobs require people to be graduates (presumably basket-weaving, catering and leisure management and sports studies all count), and that in a few years time less than 11% of jobs will be completely unskilled.

    All of which agrees with what you’ve said here.

    What is interesting though, if you combine the BBC figures with the ones from Google Answers, you get a situation where girls were leaving school and going to work at the age of 11 or 12, and not hitting puberty until the age of 14 or 15. Which actually makes a sort of sense. They’d have three or four years of living in an adult world before the emotional storms of puberty hit in. I so wonder how many of them were the victims of sexual abuse, though.

    Mmmmm. If it was my field, which it so isn’t, I’d be tempted to put together a proposal for funding.


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