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Why Are Childhood Family Factors Associated With Timing of Maturation? A Role for Internal Prediction

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle


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Children, particularly girls, who experience early familial adversity tend to go on to reach sexual maturity relatively early. This feature of adolescent development is believed to be an evolved strategy that arose because individuals with genes that caused them to mature relatively early under certain conditions left behind more descendants than those who did not. However, although much has been done to uncover the psychological and physiological mechanisms underlying this process, less attention has been paid to the evolutionary reasons behind why it might be advantageous. It has previously been suggested that this strategy evolved because early familial adversity accurately indicated later environmental adversity, under which conditions early reproduction would likely maximize evolutionary fitness. In this article, we contrast this external prediction model with an alternative explanation, which builds on the existing explanation and is mutually compatible with it but also distinct from it. We argue that accelerated development is advantageous because early adversity detrimentally affects the individual's body, increasing later morbidity and mortality; individuals may adapt to this internal setback by accelerating their development. Unlike the external prediction model, this internal prediction relies not on temporal environmental continuity but on long-term effects of early circumstances on the body.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rickard IJ, Frankenhuis WE, Nettle D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Perspectives on Psychological Science

Year: 2014

Volume: 9

Issue: 1

Pages: 3-15

Print publication date: 01/01/2014

ISSN (print): 1745-6916

ISSN (electronic): 1745-6924

Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc.


DOI: 10.1177/1745691613513467


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