Puberty in Boys

Puberty in boys prepares them to compete for mates and to enter into married life and parenthood. Observational research indicates that adolescent boys become rougher in their competition (Boulton, 1992; Neill, 1985), just as aggressiveness and mate competition increase in the maturing males of many other species. In no culture are adolescent girls more competitive than boys (Schlegel, 1995). Young males commit the vast majority of assaults and homicides worldwide, most of which are related to sexual competition directly or indirectly (Daly & Wilson, 1988). Cross-culturally, ridicule and humorous repartee are a common form of competition among adolescent boys and young men (Apte, 1985).

Why do males become larger and stronger than females? When the nondominant arm (to control for training) is tested for strength before puberty, no sex difference is found, but a sex difference emerges at puberty (Astrand, 1985). Comparative analysis suggests the main reason. Polygynous species, in which mate competition is intense, tend to show greater sexual dimorphism than monogamous ones. Thus greater male size seems to have evolved mainly to enhance competitive ability. Humans are a mildly dimorphic species and, accordingly, exhibit a mild degree of polygyny. Large size also aided in hunting and in defense of the family.

As boys become taller and stronger, they become hairier—why? Again, comparative analysis helps to identify the function of a trait. Dark, thick, curly, and conspicuous hair of the type that covers men's bodies typically functions in male primates to inflate the apparent size of structures, such as the jaw, that serve as bodily weapons (Guthrie, 1976). Men's deep voice, deep-set eyes, and large jaw likewise constitute general primate threat or dominance features that attract females and intimidate males (Keating, 1985).

Male as well as female adolescents become romantically motivated; pubertal hormones impel them to establish pair bonds (Money & Ehrhardt, 1972). The typical human male is not promiscuous, but rather seeks to marry—but to remain open to the possibility of extramarital reproduction (Daly & Wilson, 1983). Men, like a few other male mammals, are inclined to aid their own offspring. Rising levels of prolactin during his mate's pregnancy render a man more parental (Storey et al., 2000), so paternal behavior is not merely socially constructed.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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