Gene Expression

Are late bloomers losers?

I have just finished reading No Two Alike by Judith Rich Harris. A review will be forthcoming, after I’ve digested the material and can offer up some coherent reflections. But one of the things that is great about Harris’ book is that its review of the literature is both thorough and engaging. In one of the last chapters she points to the research of Mary Cover Jones published in 1957 in Child Development, “The later careers of boys who were early- or late- maturing.” In short, the research suggests that late maturing boys are disadvantaged in the dominance game for their whole lives in comparison to early maturing boys. In this case Jones found a group of boys who varied greatly in height in their teens, but where the late bloomers eventually caught up. But, even later in life they tended to exhibit a lack of dominance, while the early maturers translated their social ease and grace into more high status careers. This is reminiscient of research which shows that men who are tall as teenagers tended to make more money than those who were short, and that the correlation between height and income as adults was simply a byproduct of the fact that most tall teenagers matured into tall adults (ie., males who peaked early and were not particularly tall as adults were still high earners, while males who had a late growth spurt were not).

Now, stringing together correlations can be a sketchy game…but the reason I thought of this is because of the recent Nature paper which suggested that delayed brain development correlates with intelligence. I don’t know if delayed brain development indicates delayed development in general, but as I noted before, the normal distribution in intelligence suggests strongly that there must be braking selective factors against the drive toward high IQ. Life history analysis seems to be very difficult in general, but these are the sort of angles that might be very interesting to explore at some point in the future.

Comments

  1. #1 Agnostic
    April 7, 2006

    I’ve been meaning to write up a review of _No Two Alike_ as well. It was really good, but I don’t think she’s proposed an alternative to developmental noise. It’s just developmental noise at the social level.

    BTW, why didn’t the publisher figure out that a gajillion times more people would’ve picked up the book if the cover showed female twins with dark hair, clear skin, large eyes, and full lips, artistically cropped? (Like the photo in the Nancy Etcoff article.)

  2. #2 razib
    April 7, 2006

    I’ve been meaning to write up a review of _No Two Alike_ as well. It was really good, but I don’t think she’s proposed an alternative to developmental noise. It’s just developmental noise at the social level.

    sort of. with frills. yes, you should do a review.

  3. #3 pconroy
    April 7, 2006

    As a late developer myself, I think _loser_ is a little too strong a term to use. I would say that during a considerable period of teenage years such people are at a disadvantage socially, and it can become a stimulus for them to enter fields of study which are more introverted and anti-social. However this needn’t be the case for all, as particularly if one plays sports later in life, one can regain the physical confidence lost in teenage years.
    But there is certainly a positive correlation between those that mature early, and who consequently often outshine their peers athletically, and who then enter into more extroverted jobs. Many former jocks enter the sales field, for example. Many top sales people, then enter senior management. I know it is very rare in tech companies for a programmer to be CEO – unless the person started the company – but highly likely for a salesperson to do so – think Cisco CEO, John Chambers.

  4. #4 Boknekht
    April 7, 2006

    “Are Late Bloomers Losers”

    Firstly, early & late bloomers differed in age by how many years?

    From personal observation, no. In my experience, it always been the very brightest who’d mature later. They’re the ones who became research scientists, doctors, lawyers, etc., while the earliest to mature(Early Bloomers) were generally junkier individuals with junk jobs, i.e., welfare bums, subway car dusters, junkfood-joint cashiers. These men were also shorter, mostly under five-feet eleven. That feebleminded men are generally shorter has been my lifetime impression. I suspect that my impressions accurately represent reality in general.

    Hmmm, i wonder if the trend holds internationally.

    I’ve also noted that high-IQ, high-SES individuals(CEO’s, professors, research scientists, physicians, lawyers) have a strong tendency toward being significantly taller than the average[5'11''-6'4'' - tall & sometimes ectomorphic]. Most of these people have also tended to be confident & dominant. Tall men more often work for themselves, i’ve suspected.
    Types like Vicente Fox, Jaques Chirac, Prince William, Harry, etc. are common among the high IQ, high SES.

  5. #5 Boknekht
    April 7, 2006

    “but as I noted before, the *normal distribution in intelligence* suggests strongly that there must be braking selective factors against the drive toward high IQ”

    This caught my attention. I’m curious here.

    Would you link to where the above(quoted material) was discussed/considered in more detail?

  6. #6 Dan Jones
    April 8, 2006

    I just wanted to comment on the brain development/IQ study. It didn’t show that delayed brain development correlates with IQ (I think GrrlScientist relied on a Yahoo news article – checking the primary paper is a bit more reliable). What the study shows, as I explained at length here, is that IQ correlates with the trajectory of cortical development, which is a very different thing. People with a very high IQ tend to show a rapid increase in cortical thickness after about 7 years of age (at which age it tends to thinner in those with very high intelligence), followed by a slightly less rapid thinning. People with merely high intelligence also show thickening then thinning (but, perhaps paradoxically, start with a thicker cortex than those with very high intelligence), but it is less pronounced. Those with average intelligence generally tart with a thicker cortex still, but show a much reduced rate of change in cortical thickness during development to adulthood. Interestingly, all people seem to end up with roughly the same thickness of cortex by early adulthood (which is why cortical thickness per se doesn’t correlate that strongly with intelligence – it is the path of development that counts). This is an interesting study, and I don’t think any straightforward conclusions, such as drawn in the Yahoo news story, are warranted.

    I’m half-way through No Two Alike, and I can second that it is well worth reading (from what I’ve gleaned so far).

  7. #7 PaleCast
    April 9, 2006

    From personal observation, no. In my experience, it always been the very brightest who’d mature later.

    Same here. The basic “nerd” stereotype is of a late developer.

    In short, the research suggests that late maturing boys are disadvantaged in the dominance game for their whole lives in comparison to early maturing boys.

    One obvious hypothesis is that these boys who mature late are behind in the dominance game because they simply got started later. There is no doubt some truth in this.

    Another factor may be a third variable that underlies both late maturation and low social dominance. Perhaps males who mature late also have temperaments that predispose them to be less socially dominant (e.g. introversion/inhibition).

    Some interesting research that may shed some light on this subject is Brian G. Gilmartin’s work on love-shyness. Gilmartin’s book is available here as pdf and partially as html. Gilmartin suggested that a certain temperament, namely introversion/inhibition combined with a tendency towards anxiety predisposed males to have major social problems (especially romantically later on) and often get bullied (i.e. these males end up on the bottom of social hierachies). Also, he found that love-shy men had “assertion phobia,” which is obviously the opposite of social dominance. I think Gilmartin found that love-shy men often developed later (or if I’m remembering that wrong, then I suspect he would have found it). He also found love-shy men to be above average in intelligence, though I’m not sure how he measured this. Anyway, his research has some flaws and is outdated in some ways, but I think it will be very interesting to many of the people here.

  8. #8 Spectra
    April 13, 2006

    Okay, you’ve got to be joking with the tall = higher IQ. Have you read “The Mismeasure of Man” by Steven Jay Gould? If not, you should.

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