Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You thought your father kept you in line?

You didn't know the half of it. According to researchers at Pennsylvania State University at Altoona paternal pheromones delay the start of girls' first menstrual cycle (menarche).

Apparently this is seen in other animal species. It is thought to reduce the likelihood of inbreeding. Why, then, earlier menarche when half- or step-brothers are present? I guess to promote cross-breeding.

This leads me to many questions the researchers didn't answer. What about a house with no father but many full brothers? What about a father AND many brothers? What about a step-father?

The measurable delay was about three months. It seems like this is hardly helpful in preventing in-breeding. Three years, maybe. Not three months. But then we have to remember that these are in some ways relics of our simian past. Now we have social taboos and words like "incest" that work to optimize genetic mixing. In a way it's impressive that the chemicals and receptors from our more primative regulatory system are still present.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Patrick said...

Of course, age of menarche is already known to correlate to a whole range of other socioeconomic factors. It's just as--if not more--likely that pheromones have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Isn't it more plausible that the amount of time the father spends in the home correlates very strongly to economic status? If dad isn't around, you're probably more likely to be eating a lot of junk food...

7:59 AM  
Blogger doulicia said...

I believe the study controlled for socioeconomic factors. I could be wrong.

That said, I think there could be many, many things at play here. Although I take issue with tying diet to household economics. I would guess that fathers at both the very low AND the very high end of the economic ladder are gone a lot. The surgeon or CEO can be as absent as the AWOL welfare father.

Diet and menarche, yes. But diet and dad's presence? Not so sure.

9:11 AM  

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