Puberty in Girls

Puberty in girls functions mainly to prepare them for childbearing. This includes choosing and attracting a desirable mate, and then nurturing their children. Adolescent girls become attractive to males and infants, and begin to evaluate males as possible mates (Tanner, 1978). Other clearly adaptive pubertal changes have been documented that would have prepared a girl for married life in a forager society. Women excel at remembering the location of objects—a skill of value in gathering plant food, their ancestral livelihood (Hampson, 2002; Silverman & Eals, 1992). This ability varies with stage of the menstrual cycle (Postma et al., 1999). By contrast, males excel at finding their way and at hurling projectiles accurately—skills useful in hunting (Kimura, 1999). Women tend to surpass men in manual dexterity, and do best around ovulation (Hampson, 2002; Kimura, 1999). Manual dexterity is serviceable for gathering plants and for delicate handiwork (Hampson, 2002). Women also exceed men in verbal and nonverbal communication performance, skills advantageous for teaching and raising children (Babchuk, Hames, & Thompson, 1985). These sex differences have all been related to gonadal hormone fluctuations (Hampson, 2002; Kimura, 1999).

Evidence suggests that girls, like other female primates, become more attracted to infants at puberty (Coe, 1990; Goldberg, Blumberg, & Kriger, 1982). Throughout the life span females perform more parental care than males in all cultures (Daly & Wilson, 1983; Friedl, 1975; Schlegel & Barry, 1991; van den Berghe, 1980). Various pregnancy and lactational hormones have been implicated in human maternal behavior, including estrogens, progesterone, oxytocin, and prolactin (Altemus et al., 1995; Uvnas-Moberg, 1997). Socialization of girls for nurtu-rance complements an evolved propensity for child care.

Parenting Teens Special Report

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