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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2014 Jan;9(1):3-15. doi: 10.1177/1745691613513467.

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

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Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom Centre for Behavior and Evolution, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Department of Developmental Psychology, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
Centre for Behavior and Evolution, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.


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.


developmental plasticity; familial adversity; life history; psychosocial acceleration; puberty


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