The Age To Marry
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
I BELIEVE definitely and emphatically in early marriages. As soon as a youth has attained man's estate, it is time for him to marry. The early selection of a mate will save him from many difficulties, enabling him to avoid many temptations that might be too strong to be overcome. Furthermore, early marriage establishes a high ideal at a period in life when habits are being formed. Every boy who grows to manhood has a distinct and emphatic desire for a home, for a wife and children, and all the duties and responsibilities associated therewith. He craves the companionship of one upon whom he can shower his affection. He wants a woman he can love and who loves him in return. The prattling voice of a child stirs his heart-strings. It is fitting that these yearnings should be satisfied early in life. It is to a man's advantage that such should be the case.
In offering this opinion, please remember that I do not maintain that early marriages are always best if a man can avoid the evils that often accompany the unmarried state. If the immoralities and dissipations that are everywhere so prevalent among young men can be avoided, then marriage can unquestionably be delayed with advantage. For instance, it would be safe to say that the age. of twenty-five or even thirty years is early enough for a man to marry, if he could maintain a continent life up to that time. We must remember, however, that in some in-stances this is not accomplished.. Therefore we would say that from the twentieth year marriage, or thoughts of marriage, should not be severely discouraged, for in many instances a marriage at this age would certainly be choosing the lesser of two evils.
We should distinguish, however, between what we may call early marriage and premature marriage. Marriage before the age of eighteen may be considered as premature. For those who mature late marriage even at twenty might be pre-mature. As a rule, marriage between twenty and twenty-four years of age may be considered early, but not premature.
Complete maturity is unquestionably essential to the use of the sex function, if the highest good of the race is to be attained. The children of adult parents are usually superior. Not until they have had a chance to attain full strength and fairly good growth are well-cared-for fruit-trees allowed to bear. The same reasoning should be applied to the human race.
There has been considerable discussion in scientific circles as to the supposed inferiority of children of early parentage. After extensive study, Casper L. Redfield of Chicago concluded that many exceptionally great men have been the product of families in which late marriage, or at least late parenthood, has been the rule. He even offered a prize of $100 to the American Genetic Association for evidence that any superior individual was ever produced by breeding human beings as rapidly as four generations to a century. He wanted to find some intellectually superior per-son whose date of birth was not more than one hundred years after the average date of birth of his sixteen great-great-grandparents. A second prize of the same amount was offered for evidence that any extraordinarily great man such as Aristotle, Newton, or Darwin, could be found in the three-generations-to-a-century class. The prizes were not claimed at the end of a year in which many researches had been made.
This would seem to point to the superiority of children born from adult parents, that is, parents at least beyond twenty-five years of age. It is apparently true that the greatest men do not come from lines of ancestors who became parents at early ages. This does not mean, however, that superior individuals may not be born of parents between twenty and twenty-four years of age. The weak point about Mr. Redfield's contention is probably to be found in the fact that intellectual types of people usually marry late, if indeed they do not choose celibacy. Work calling for high intellectual qualities does not usually develop sufficient earning capacity to permit marriage until somewhat past the years of youth. Late marriage among such classes means late parentage, which would naturally account for the facts to which Mr. Redfield calls attention.
Prof. Karl Pearson, a British investigator of genetics, following certain inquiries, came to the conclusion that first-born children were usually inferior to those that followed, although some other students of the question hold that his re-searches were not extensive enough to justify this conclusion. There was nothing to show whether the supposed result was due to the mere fact that these children were born first, or that it was due to the probable youth of the parents when the first children were born. However, there is no doubt that premature parenthood is not desirable. The lack of vitality of many Hindoos and other Asiatic peoples where child-marriage,' or premature marriage, is the rule, is good evidence upon this point. It is only reasonable that fully matured parents would bear more satisfactory children.
The physiological aspects of child-bearing in early life are also worthy of consideration. Not only is adult parenthood better for the child, but the mother is better able to endure the drain upon her system after complete maturity. Child-bearing is easiest during early maturity, and be-comes more difficult with advancing years, so far as the first child is concerned. A woman is most likely to have trouble in childbirth when having her first' child after the age of thirty. Again, maternity before the age of eighteen is also likely to prove difficult.
It has been claimed by some authorities that in a very late marriage, following a life of complete continence, there is sometimes a tendency toward impotence, or sexual weakness, in the man. I believe, however, that this is not usually to be feared. It may be possible in rare instances, but without doubt most cases of impotence noted in late marriage are the result of venereal diseases years before and secret vices extending over a period of many years. Some authorities, however, vouch for the statement that impotence may follow prolonged continence. I regard this as a point upon which we need further evidence.
One great objection to late marriage is the strong likelihood of permanent bachelorhood. To postpone marriage means often a permanent life of celibacy. Thirty per cent., or more, of men add women of marriageable age in this country are single, which is a truly deplorable state of affairs. The longer marriage is delayed the less is the chance of its ever being consummated.
It is true that we cannot overlook the financial burden of a home and children as a factor in the problem. As a rule the earning capacity of a man in the early twenties is limited. Nevertheless the practice of careful living will do much to overcome these difficulties. Others have successfully contended with these difficulties, and it is worth the struggle. There is no question that unmarried men commonly waste large sums of money, and without a doubt the money so wasted is often sufficient to meet the requirements of a modest little home. Again, the responsibility of marriage in itself tends to make a man out of a youth. He squares his shoulders to fit himself for his burdens. He settles down, concentrates his forces. A great many young men, by choosing the luxurious ease of single blessedness, and by drifting along in that condition, undoubtedly waste many of the best years of their lives.
Furthermore, if you marry and have children fairly early, you will find that they are grown and taking care of themselves while you are still young and vigorous and able to do your best work. Also, you will be able to enjoy them more, together with your grandchildren, for you will not have reached blind and toothless senility by the time they have matured.