Menu Close

The Biochemistry of Bonding8 min read

Listen to this article

In her recent book Unprotected, UCLA campus psychologist Dr. Miriam Grossman discusses how women’s bodies release oxytocin during childbirth AND during sexual activity, and that the role of this hormone seems to be to increase emotional bonding.  Grossman warns that casual sex on our campuses is not only epidemic, but that it is emotionally damaging, especially to women, in part because we are designed to bond during sex, and that sex between non-committed partners (which the bible calls promiscuity) followed by separation may be harmful.

In fact, a previous report in New Scientist magazine discussed the current science around the biochemistry of love, showing that Grossman’s claims are backed by science (note the personification of evolution as intelligent – interesting that evolutionists constantly allude to design and intelligence when discussing the ‘miracles’ of evolution)

Evolution stole the biochemistry and neural tricks that bond mother to infant and reinstalled them, so as to bind male and female together.

However, the article goes on to discuss that monogamy and promiscuity might be highly biologically driven, as seen in the comparison of two vole species that are monogamous and promiscuous, respectively:

Larry Young and his colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, were able to make promiscuous meadow voles monogamous simply by injecting them with a virus that carried the prairie vole gene variant into their brain cells. Just as predicted, if prairie voles are given drugs that block their vasopressin receptors, they become as promiscuous as meadow voles.

This raises some really interesting questions when applied to humans:

  • If promiscuity is biologically driven, should we condemn it as immoral, or accept it as natural?  (See My genes made me do it)
  • If the pattern of chemical emotional bonding trends towards monogamous pairing in humans, should we use that as evidence that we are designed for monogamy?  Or perhaps that women are, but men aren’t?  (polygamy).

But the biochemistry of bonding gets even more interesting.  In a more recent New Scientist report called Why are girls growing up so fast?, the author warns that hitting puberty earlier is definitely not good for our children:

Maturing early is not simply a vague matter of “lost childhood” – it can have serious health repercussions. The younger a girl is when she reaches puberty, the higher the likelihood that she will experience depression and breast cancer, indulge in substance abuse or risky sexual activity, or suffer teenage pregnancy and dissatisfaction with her body image. Early-maturing boys may face their own problems, but with so few studies into their development these are as yet unknown.

But there is a mystery.  Just why are children maturing earlier?

While there is general agreement that the huge improvement in nutrition and health in developed countries underlies this accelerated development, it is  becoming clear that this cannot be the whole story.

Why, for example, do girls reach puberty at widely different ages in countries with similarly high standards of nutrition and healthcare. More puzzling still, why do girls who grow up without their biological father tend to mature earlier?

Enter the ‘psychosocial acceleration theory’:

Back in 1991, psychologist Jay Belsky of Birkbeck College, University of London, and his colleagues came up with what they called the psychosocial acceleration theory. This suggests that girls who experience a lot of family stress will mature faster. They reasoned that what a girl experiences in her early years acts as a prediction of the likely availability of resources later in life. If she grows up in
a socially harsh environment, and so cannot expect much support in later life, she will be better off if she adopts an accelerated reproductive strategy, including earlier onset of puberty and menarche, early first pregnancy, and short-term relationships with less parenting investment in each of her children.

A girl growing up in a more stable, nurturing environment, on the other hand, will be better served by a high-investment reproductive strategy, including later puberty and onset of sexual activity, and more stable pair-bonding.

Don’t miss that last paragraph.  Kids that grow up in more stable homes don’t lose their childhood to the pressing needs and fears of adult life, and end up in more stable adult relationships.  But it goes beyond the psychology of stress to the psychology of daughters needing FATHERS:

That stress can accelerate sexual development is now well established, but the idea that fathers play a central role in the maturation of their daughters is more recent.

In 1999 and 2003, Bruce Ellis of the University of Arizona, Tucson, and his colleagues reported findings from studies in the US and New Zealand in which they followed 762 girls from age 5 to sexual maturity (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol 77, p 387; Child Development, vol 74, p 801). […]

They found that daughters from homes in which the biological father was present tended to experience puberty and their first sexual encounter at a later age than those whose father was absent. The closer and more affectionate the father-daughter relationship, the later the child’s sexual development occurred. A supportive relationship between parents delayed puberty still further. In  contrast, the biological father’s absence, or friction between parents, was  associated with earlier puberty, sexual activity and pregnancy.

Girls who had lived without their fathers from an early age were almost twice as likely to have completed puberty by the seventh grade (age 12 or 13) and were seven times more likely to experience pregnancy in adolescence. This effect was magnified by the presence of a stepfather: the more prolonged a girl’s exposure to a stepfather or mother’s boyfriend, the greater the chance of early puberty, although this was less pronounced in families where the mother and stepfather had a good, supportive relationship.

The study clearly shows that stressful family relationships and the absence of a girl’s father are each independently associated with earlier timing of puberty in daughters, both having a similar impact. Ellis suggests that girls “detect and internally encode” information about the quality of their relationship with their fathers, and that this calibrates the timing of their reproductive development and sexual behaviour in adolescence.

That last highlighted sentence is important.  It says that, apart from stress or stability in the home, the mere presence of the biological father has an affect on the daughters.  But why?   Enter the biochemistry of bonding:

Last year, Robert Matchock of Pennsylvania State University in Altoona and Elizabeth Susman at Penn State’s University Park campus published results from a study of almost 2000 US college students. Like Ellis, they found that the absence of a biological father was associated with earlier menarche, but they also found that the presence of half-brothers and stepbrothers had the same effect.

They, too, say pheromones are the key. “Biological fathers send out inhibitory chemical signals to their daughters,” says Matchock. “In the absence of these signals, girls tend to sexually mature earlier.” In addition, other pheromones produced by unrelated males serve to accelerate puberty. The study also found that girls living in towns and cities had earlier menarche than those from rural areas. “Urban living would increase the probability of women interacting with novel males and coming into contact with their chemical cues….

This is stated negatively, but to state it positively, biological bonding with fathers delays the onset of puberty, leading to a healthier life.  This, by the way, begs the following question:

  • If girls are raised by two lesbian parents, are they automatically at risk because they lack the presence of a father?  I would say that psychological evidence suggest so, and now so does biology.  Biology may indicate that what is best for children is a loving, hetero home.

The opening tagline of the article actually says it all:

If you don’t want your little princess to grow up too quickly, she had better be a daddy’s girl.