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Juvenility in the context of life history theory

Abstract

Homo sapiens is unique in having four prolonged and pronounced postnatal pre-adult life history stages: infancy, which lasts for 30–36 months and ends with weaning from breast feeding in traditional societies; childhood, which lasts for an additional 2–4 years and concludes in a degree of independence as regards protection and food provision; a juvenile stage of 3–4 years that terminates with readiness for sexual maturation; and adolescence, which lasts for 3–5 years and culminates in fertility. Juvenility implies two transitional periods which are only experienced by humans: a transition from childhood to juvenility and from juvenility to adolescence. Juvenility, “the age of reason and responsibility” and concrete operation, coincides with elementary school age and offers opportunities to prepare for the social complexity of adolescence. Here I define the transition to juvenility by three variables: adrenarche (the onset of adrenal androgen generation), growth pattern (decelerating from a linear childhood growth velocity) and adiposity rebound acceleration of body mass index. The data presented suggest that this period is endowed with programming/predictive adaptive responses of body composition to the environment.

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