Theories

Understanding sex differences and sexual behavior in adolescence requires some comprehension of adolescence as it occurs throughout the world. Statements restricted to adolescence in the West or in industrialized societies beg the question of whether or not they are also true of adolescence elsewhere, whether or not they are universal, and, if so, whether or not they are true of adolescence in other primate species as well.

It goes without saying that human behavior is exceedingly flexible, but this does not mean that it has no evolved basis and is entirely learned. Consistent with the fact that humans share 99% of their genes, universal behaviors and sex differences have been reported (Brown, 1991; Friedl, 1975; Mealey, 2000; Schlegel & Barry, 1991; van den Berghe, 1979). Even adolescents living in post-industrial society, an environment far removed from the African savannah in which hominids evolved, generally retain the evolved behavioral propensities of the Pleistocene era since 99% of our genes are still the same. Therefore it should be possible to find a core of adolescent behavioral tendencies in any normal population, albeit with some individual exceptions. Once a general species-wide characteristic of adolescence is identified, it can then be analyzed functionally to learn why it has stood the test of time. General statements about adolescence, to the extent that they can be established, will provide a functional framework for viewing this stage of life.

On the other hand, it is important not to overgeneral-ize, to see consistency where it does not exist. Variability exists, and is due mainly to differences in socialization by family and culture, not genetic differences between populations. Various theories have arisen to explain these socialization influences, including the social cognitive theory of gender, which stresses observation and imitation, and cognitive developmental theory, which emphasizes one's self-concept as male or female. Gender schema theory recognizes an internal (evolved?) motive to conform with culturally based gender expectations. This cultural variability is widely acknowledged by evolutionists, but until recently evoked little attention from them. In the past decade or so, however, evolutionists have begun trying to explain some of this variability by invoking the concept of biological function. As in the case of a particular species, individuals and populations must exhibit behavior that enhances their survival and reproduction. A given practice can be interpreted in functional terms whether it arises because of natural selection or cultural selection. If a particular trait is adaptive in the species as a whole, given enough geological time, it will evolve genetic supports and come to have an evolved basis (the Baldwin effect). If the trait is adaptive only locally, culture will usually support it. The neural basis of culture and learning evolved to permit rapid behavioral adjustments to environmental changes. Learning would not be so widespread in animals if it did not generally enhance their biological fitness. The same can be said of human culture. This broad approach promises to strike a balance between biological and cultural approaches, and to provide a unifying construct—biological function. Language, tool use, warfare, ornamentation, religion, and other well-developed biocultural capacities are increasingly being analyzed in adaptive terms. The discovery of rudiments of some of these capacities in great apes is facilitating this functional analysis (e.g., McGrew, 1992).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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