Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 587–606 | Cite as

The Magical Age of 10

  • Gilbert Herdt
  • Martha McClintock


Developmental processes of “puberty” and their cultural contexts in understanding the emergence of sexual subjectivity, especially sexual attraction, prior to gonadarche are critically examined. In particular, we consider the hypothesis that “sexual attraction” follows the onset of adrenal puberty, termed adrenarche, precipitating the development of stable and memorable attraction toward others approximately by the age of 10. In a prior study, the authors suggested that adrenarche is a significant source of this developmental change in sexuality (McClintock, M., and Herdt, G., 1996). The inferential evidence from New Guinea is compared with recent studies from the United States, including clinical findings on “precocious puberty.” We conclude with the question of whether the age of 10 is a human universal in the development of attraction and sexuality.

puberty sexual attraction adrenarche gonadarche culture 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gilbert Herdt
    • 1
  • Martha McClintock
    • 2
  1. 1.Program in Human Sexuality StudiesSan Francisco State UniversitySan Francisco
  2. 2.Committee on Human DevelopmentUniversity of ChicagoChicago

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