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Pressuring young boys before 24 and girls before 23 to get married flies in the face of all logic and scientific evidence. In fact, it can doom a marriage to failure, because they are not yet mentally or emotionally ready for marriage.

According to Dr. Jeramy Clark and Jerusha Clark in their excellent book, “Your Teenager is Not Crazy”, the adolescent brain begins to “prune” from the back to the front, in girls starting at about 11 and boys around 12. This pruning is at a time in late childhood when children experience a radical, explosive mental growth. The pruning, also called “arborization,” like a tree growing new branches, is a process of specialization, as the adolescent moves towards adulthood. This is a time of turmoil for children at this stage – early teenagers. Their brains are developing unevenly, and the changes happening can be physically and emotionally exhausting. For their parents, too!

The portion of the brain that finally matures at 24 in boys and 23 in girls is the executive functioning portion of the brain. It’s called the Prefrontal Cortex and it’s located right behind the forehead. As the teenage brain is being pruned, it’s also being myelinated. These myelin sheaths act like the insulation on a wire – they allow the transmissions of thoughts to go quicker and more specialized – so that’s the process that finishes for girls around 24 or 25. For some young men, it’s right up to 27! (That’s the outside age.)

Why does it take so long for boys? A boy will experience an increase in testosterone between the ages of 10 and 20 that is 30 times the amount of childhood. This is just to secure their compassion alone. And because the testosterone works with other brain structures, specifically, the amygdala, the seat of fear, emotionally charged memories, causes that and the hypothalamus to grow larger in young men, so it takes longer for their brains to become accustomed to perceiving threats, to understanding risk versus benefit, all because our men need to be brave, they need to be courageous.

In the girl’s brain, the increase in progesterone interacts with a stress hormone called cortisol, so when a stressful thing happens in a girl’s brain, the progesterone in a girl’s brain makes it more difficult for her to calm dow. This is the reason why girls tend to have more “drama” than boys – the cortisol that is released into the girl’s brain takes about 30 minutes to work. In both boys’ and girls’ brains, the reaction is inverse to adults – our brains release a chemical called THP to counteract cortisol, in teenagers, THP is ineffective and in fact, it can sometimes have the reverse effect and cause escalating stress, so they need fewer stresses in their life. 

Marrying earlier, and especially having children earlier put a lot of stress and pressure on young minds and emotions that are not equipped for it.

Think about it: This is why the army recruits young men around 18: they are easy to program, their risk/reward evaluation is not yet fully developed, and they are easy to control and persuade.

Just because the state and others with ulterior motives manipulate and misuse young people who are not ready doesn’t mean we should.

I haven’t mentioned people living together outside of wedlock. In my opinion, a man who doesn’t love a woman enough to marry her doesn’t deserve her, and a woman who doesn’t insist on marriage before slithering into bed with men doesn’t deserve marriage.

Robin Elliott