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Open Access Review

Evo-devo of human adolescence: beyond disease models of early puberty

Ze'ev Hochberg12* and Jay Belsky345

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Meyer Children's Hospital, Rambam Health Care Campus, Haaliya Street, Haifa 31096, Israel

2 Rappaport Family Faculty of Medicine, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Efron Street, Haifa 31096, Israel

3 Department of Human and Community Development, University of California Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA

4 Department of Special Education, King Abdulaziz University, Rihanat Aljazeera Street, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

5 Department of Psychological Science, Birkbeck University of London, Malet Street, London WC1B 3HE, UK

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BMC Medicine 2013, 11:113  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-113

Published: 29 April 2013

Abstract

Despite substantial heritability in pubertal development, much variation remains to be explained, leaving room for the influence of environmental factors to adjust its phenotypic trajectory in the service of fitness goals. Utilizing evolutionary development biology (evo-devo), we examine adolescence as an evolutionary life-history stage in its developmental context. We show that the transition from the preceding stage of juvenility entails adaptive plasticity in response to energy resources, other environmental cues, social needs of adolescence and maturation toward youth and adulthood. Using the evolutionary theory of socialization, we show that familial psychosocial stress fosters a fast life history and reproductive strategy rather than early maturation being just a risk factor for aggression and delinquency. Here we explore implications of an evolutionary-developmental-endocrinological-anthropological framework for theory building, while illuminating new directions for research.

Keywords:
adolescence; evolution; juvenility; puberty; youth