Vain Young Men, Insecure Young Women? Blame Age Segregation.

A Psychology Today article linked from today's edition of Arts & Letters Daily,entitled "The Loopy Logic of Love," discusses the mental tricks that lovers play when evaluating a potential mate.

The article's author, Kaja Perina, writes that men and women in the first flower of a relationship delude themselves in typically gender-specific ways. Men overestimate a woman's degree of interest in them, while women defensively assume that men are just looking for sex (even more than is actually the case, that is).

In the most interesting part of the article, Perina suggests that our society's rampant age segregation -- a by-product of the high school and college systems -- makes for vain young men and insecure young women:


Peer judgments may be supremely influential in today's world. Traditionally, teens mixed more with adults and extended family, so they received feedback on their mate value from their clan as much as from their clique. But today teens are schooled and socialized in lockstep, creating an unprecedented separation from adults that Miller argues may warp accurate self-appraisal. A 17-year-old girl, he contends, compares herself mercilessly to her equally nubile peers; she doesn't mingle with adults enough to realize that she and her friends are all in the top-10 percent of women, reproductively speaking. "Forty years ago," says Miller, "a girl might have entered the workforce at age 18 and gotten a lot of attention in the office relative to the 28-year old 'spinster.' " Today, she'll enter college, still socializing and competing with a gaggle of equally young, pretty girls.


Boys also rank themselves heavily against peers. But because high school shelters them from the status wars waged among professional men, Miller believes boys actually overestimate their mate value during adolescence, and none more so than jocks. "Young men who were captains of the football team graduate thinking they're God's gift to women, and women respond, 'I'm interested in corporate attorneys and well-cited professors. Who the hell are you?' " The bottom line, he says, is that the longer you extend age-segregated higher education, the more you delay accurate calibration to the overall mating market.

It could be true -- if you believe that men are primed to value youth and beauty in a mate, while women value brains, wealth, and other signs of worldly success.

Sounds like an outside-the-box argument for alternative or community-based education.

(Pictures: iStockPhoto)


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This sounds like the opposite to me - and argument FOR age segregation. It seems as though this simply encourages competition among people of similar ages, a good thing, rather than the opposite situation where young boys are overlooked by girls their own age who think they're mature enough to handle the 35-year-old creep, and women over 30 are considered past their prime. Age segregation encourages those of a given age to see the attractiveness in their peers, meaning that more of us are "attractive" for more of our lives, instead of obsessing over the appeal of 18-year-old girls.

Additionally, the statement "vain young men and insecure young women" is exactly the opposite of what I encountered in high school and college. Women are the gatekeepers, guys are horny, desparate and begging.

When do men stop being horny, desparate, and begging? Okay, maybe the begging stops, and outright aggression takes over.

Perhaps we should clarify in all this that we are talking about heterosexual boys and girls. It would be interesting to speculate what difference, if any, it makes for homosexual boys and girls to be out from under the influence of the clan and into an age-segregated social environment for such an extended period. I'm guessing once they get past the horrors of gay-bashing in high school (which is really, really bad in a great number of our schools) that college life gets maybe a tiny bit better because they can choose their social circle a bit more but I don't know for sure.

The article makes sense to me; I've felt for a long time that isolating kids from other age groups (at least, as thoroughly as they are) was fundamentally a bad idea.

JeffK: Have you considered therapy? It might help you deal better with your frustrations.

By David Harmon (not verified) on 08 Jan 2007 #permalink

I bet that homosexual kids benefit from having older role models just as much as hetero kids, and maybe even more (because homosexual role models aren't as ubiquitous in the culture)...

nothing has changed people are as they are going to if mothers and fathers didnt have 2 work all the time and kids didnt get left alone .if parents would or could sped more time with there kids befor age 13 and teach them more ,if a family was a family still if the members of the family wrent in ther own worlds trying to make a living if gas wasent high or MONEY didnt rule the world if greed wasent all that kids know and sex wasent all the boyswanted because ther mom not around to teach them how to treat girls ...and girl didnt need a boy to feel that there pritty and worth somthing becaue there dads not around to tell them they were pritty... if less kid felt alone or in pain or hate 4 the ones that maded them and left.the ones that hurt us are the ones that made us. two people came toghter to make one person then they go there way eather one dies in war or sent to jail from drugs or violince or just leave care less of the child nothing has changed that some could have changed the mother could have the father could have the goverment could have god could have or whatever you worship could have stop this HATE,PAIN,LONELINESS, CARELESS WAY OF LIFE WE LIVE.i am 15 girl my fathers dead he cheated on my mom while he was dieing my traves for a living but when she not she spends all the time she can with me but nothing will change the pain i have from being alone as a child lissy love all the hurt and hopes you understand everthing i said.i pray 4 all pain to fade,..........

you people will never under stand why

your article almost makes sense but you are probley a retard becuase you can't spell or even make sense in the slightest bit. oh and i hope i don't ever understand why your retarted yeah following words were spelled wrong so you could read then because you speak retard and we don't o yeah lissy one other thing


this is in caps to tell you something

go to hell drama queen

help me i want to marry a girl from country who is between 18 and 22 years old

By Roger Rikie (not verified) on 06 Aug 2007 #permalink

I agree with this, and it fits into some of my own ideas. In the business of shoving ever-more information into the kids's heads "from the top" (the adult curriculum), we've accidentally damaged the natural information flows from older to younger cohorts, and those latter info-streams do a lot of the heavy work of socialization.

By David Harmon (not verified) on 05 Feb 2008 #permalink

"A Psychology Today article"...

Thank you for putting the signal "this article need not be read any further" right in the first sentence. That was a nice time saver.

nothing has changed people are as they are going to if mothers and fathers didnt have 2 work all the time and kids didnt get left alone .

Ah yeah, the Land of the Working Poor.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 06 Feb 2008 #permalink

allI ever see is hot looking young woman and when i want to talk to them, thier either totally insecure or they are
are such a spoiled brat its rediculous,
i mean cant I even find a girl that not gonna act off in front of her friends or act silll to me and not be able to talk in a normal way
I cant stand looking at them all attractive and then theres nothing there inside to even go on?