Age of Puberty
range of puberty
i have firmly established the fact that marriage at or around puberty was the norm amongst ancient (and not so ancient) civilizations. yet, perhaps an islamaphobic polemicist might argue that the average age of puberty was twelve years of age, whereas aisha (peace be upon her) was only nine or ten when she moved into prophet muhammad’s house. yet, this argument could is weakened easily. yes, the average may well have been twelve years, but surely the reader should know what the word “average” means! both mean (average) and median indicate values which are in the middle of a range of numbers. therefore, if some girls attain the age of puberty at twelve, then others are having their periods at nine and still others at fifteen.
there is a range, and this has been part of the problem of establishing the "normal" age of puberty. girls might enter full-blown puberty anytime between ages 9 and 15.
so, girls will go through “full-blown puberty” at various ages, anywhere from between nine and fifteen years of age. healthtouch.com says:
puberty usually starts between ages 8 to 13 in girls (healthtouch.com, http://www.healthtouch.com/bin/econtent_ht/cnoteshowlfts.asp?fname=07103
even if we look simply at menarche, we can see that the age varies greatly. a medical journal on cambridge.org says:
the variable age at menarche was normally distributed with an age range of 7–24
don’t be surprised if your nine-year-old daughter will have her menarche that early.
range of puberty varies with location
it is well-known that the average age of puberty differs from one population to another and from one race to another. it is therefore likely that while girls living in european countries tend to enter “full blown puberty” at around age twelve, whereas arabian girls living a thousand years ago most likely went through this same process at a much younger age. climate and altitude may affect the average age of puberty. it has been demonstrated in numerous studies that girls living near the equator have menarche earlier than those living farther away from it. some scientists attribute this to the warmer climate, whereas others attribute this to additional factors such as exposure to light.
there was a study conducted showing that girls who live in countries close to the equator started their menstruation earlier.
the book women and health psychology says:
many factors have been reported to affect age at menarche and/or the regularity of menstruation—[such as] climate, altitude, race, height, weight, hereditary, stress/psychological factors, light, and nutrition.
(women and health psychology, http://books.google.com/books?id=pk9rgvrvqaec&pg=pa74&lpg=pa74&dq =menarche+climate&source=web&ots=ilfzwgfzeo&sig=8zzxn7dvhzm2hh3
this phenomenon is not limited to menarche, but also applies to the whole of puberty. in the book women: an historical, gynecological, and anthropological compendium, we read:
the average temperature of the country or province is considered the chief factor here, not only with regard to menstruation but as regards the whole of sexual development at puberty.
(herman h. ploss, max bartels and paul bartels; woman: an historical, gynecological, and anthropological compendium, volume i, lord & bransby, 1988, p.563; http://www.biblioz.com/lp25762280577_207.html)
whether or not it is climate, latitude—or some other variable that affects menarche—is a hotly debated (and politicized) topic, but the point is that there are many factors which would contribute to an altered age of puberty. therefore, it is not at all implausible that the average age was much younger in arabia one thousand years ago. there is absolutely no way that anyone can disprove the idea that puberty began much earlier back then, since it is known that the average age fluctuates from one time to the other. in fact, the historical evidence supports our claim that the average age of puberty was much younger during the time of the prophet (peace be upon him).
just within the last one hundred years there has been a dramatic change in the average age of puberty, so one can only imagine the great change that could have taken place within the span of one thousand years! the historical literature does indeed suggest that the average age of puberty was much younger in eastern countries. the cambridge world history of food says:
albrecht von haller (1775), for example, claimed that girls in the southerly regions of asia, where the climate was warm, were marriageable in their eighth year and gave birth in their ninth or tenth year; conversely, women in arctic regions did not menstruate until age 23 or 24. this view was shared by other eighteenth-century writers, most notably j.f. freind (1738), herman boerhaave (1744), and montesquieu (1751).
(the cambridge world history of food, p.1455, http://books.google.com/books?id=tanscn0a3rcc&pg=pa1455&lpg=pa1455&
it is generally accepted that historically girls in eastern civilizations reached puberty before their european counterparts, which was one of the reasons that marriage oftentimes took place a few years earlier in the orient. the southern medical and surgical journal says:
it is allowable to infer that early marriage in oriental countries (which has generally, but without any proof, been ascribed to precocious puberty) ....
(the southern medical and surgical journal, p.41, http://books.google.com/books?id=qpwcaaaayaaj&pg=pa41&lpg=pa41&
in any case, it is altogether unnecessary to prove the point that menstruation occurred earlier in ancient arabia. we could even rely on the normal ranges provided for girls today in europe, and we find that the ranges always include nine, and aisha (peace be upon her) was either nine or ten when she moved into the prophet’s house. we do not need to establish that the average age of puberty back then was nine, but rather we merely need to demonstrate that nine years old was within the normal range of puberty, which it most certainly was and still is.