Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/238

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ho or she might find that there were advantages and not disadvantages in early marriage, and that the most prudent course was to follow their natural instincts.

We have now to consider the probable gain in the number and worth of adult offspring to these favored couples. First as regards the effect of reducing the age at marriage. There is unquestionably a tendency among cultured women to delay or even to abstain from marriage; they dislike the sacrifice of freedom and leisure, of opportunities for study and of cultured companionship. This has to be reckoned with. I heard of the reply of a lady official of a College for Women to a visitor who inquired as to the after life of the students. She answered that one third profited by it, another third gained little good, and a third were failures. 'But what becomes of the failures?' 'Oh, they marry.'

There appears to be a considerable difference between the earliest age at which it is physiologically desirable that a woman should marry and that at which the ablest, or at least the most cultured, women usually do. Acceleration in the time of marriage, often amounting to 7 years, as from 28 or 29 to 21 or 22, under influences such as those mentioned above, is by no means improbable. What would be its effect on productivity? It might be expected to act in two ways:

(1) By shortening each generation by an amount roughly proportionate to the diminution in age at which marriage occurs. Suppose the span of each generation to be shortened by one sixth, so that six take the place of five, and that the productivity of each marriage is unaltered, it follows that one sixth more children will be brought into the world during the same time, which is, roughly, equivalent to increasing the productivity of an unshortened generation by that amount.

(2) By saving from certain barrenness the earlier part of the childbearing period of the woman. Authorities differ so much as to the direct gain of fertility due to early marriage that it is dangerous to express an opinion. The large and thriving families that I have known were the offspring of mothers who married very young.

The next influence to be considered is that of healthy homes. These and a simple life certainly conduce to fertility. They also act indirectly by preserving lives that would otherwise fail to reach adult age. It is not necessarily the weakest who perish in this way, for instance, zymotic disease falls indiscriminately on the weak and the strong.

Again, the children would be healthier and therefore more likely in their turn to become parents of a healthy stock. The great danger to high civilizations, and remarkably so to our own, is the exhaustive drain upon the rural districts to supply large towns. Those who come up to the towns may produce large families, but there is much reason to