Thursday, 17 April 2014

Want your daughter to become 'sexually unrestricted'?

I have two young boys. So I can only speculate as to what it is like to be a father of girls, notably at the point at which they become sexually active. And I speculate it may be rather like this superb story from stand-up comedian Phil Jupitus.

If, for whatever reason, you would prefer your daughter to have sex later rather than sooner, it turns out the key may be to remain engaged in her upbringing. According to this Scientific American Mind article, “Researchers have revealed a robust association between father absence – both physical and psychological – and accelerated reproductive development and sexual risk-taking in daughters”.

The researcher, Sarah Hill at Texas Christian University, explains:

“When Dad is absent, it basically provides young girls with a cue about what the future holds in terms of the mating system they are born into.” When a girl's family is disrupted, and her father leaves or is not close to her, she sees her future: men don't stay for long, and her partner might not stick around either. So finding a man requires quick action. The sooner she is ready to have children, the better. She cannot consciously decide to enter puberty earlier, but her biology takes over, subconsciously. “This would help facilitate what we call, in evolutionary sciences, a faster reproductive strategy”.

The researchers are the first to admit that the links between puberty and a father's presence are just associations. They do not reveal what causes these changes. The article continues:

'In the ideal experiment that would answer this question, we would assemble a group of families and randomly assign some of the fathers to abandon their families and others to stay. Obviously, this proposal is not likely to win approval from an ethics board. So what is the next best thing? Hill and DelPriore designed an experiment in which young women—some of them teenagers and others just past their teen years—were asked to write about an incident in which their father supported them and then were encouraged to write about a time he was not there for them. Then they were asked about their attitudes toward sexual behavior. If the researchers' hypothesis was correct, memories of unpleasant father experiences would lead the young women to express more favorable views of risky sexual behavior. Pleasant memories of their fathers should push them in the opposite direction.
And that is what happened. Women became “more sexually unrestricted” after recalling an incident in which their father was disengaged, Hill explained. Further experiments showed that father disengagement did not change women's views of other kinds of risky behavior; for instance, they were not more likely to ride a bike without a helmet. The effect was limited to sex.'

Not like riding a bike
There is plenty more of interest in the article, including the hypothesis that a father's involvement could have a different effect on sons, enhancing a competitive urge and spurring sons to achieve more when they grow up and leave the family. So do read it.

There's also the important point that 'fathers have been widely overlooked in scientific studies. For example, in 2005 psychologist Vicky Phares of the University of South Florida reviewed 514 studies of clinical child and adolescent psychology from the leading psychological journals. Nearly half of them excluded fathers.'