Friday, December 21, 2012

Millennial Men Have "Tons" of Time

Role model for Generation Y men?

In U.S. Males Dump Marriage I assert that the marriage rate for Echo Boomers will be low because of a growing disinterest in marriage from the men in Generation Y. However, what if the men of Generation Y decide to change their mind? Could they decide to have families later in life?

One researcher I interviewed, Dan Eisenberg, had some fascinating discoveries on the age of fathers and telomere length:

However, previous studies have shown that children of older fathers have longer telomeres (probably because as a man ages, telomeres in his sperm get longer). Our study shows for the first time that this happens across at least two generations: older fathers not only have offspring with longer telomeres, but their sons also have offspring with longer telomeres. That is, having an older grandfather on your dad’s side at the birth of your father predicts that you will have longer telomeres.

He goes on to explain that longer telomere length plays a factor in longer lifespan. In other words, in terms of long lifespans, older fathers provide their offspring with an advantage. Kay Hymowitz, when discussing family formation offered a social sentiment about this biological clock difference between men and women:

Adding to the tension is the biological clock. Women are aware, either consciously or not, that if they are planning to have a family, they’d better be settled with a husband by their mid 30’s when their fertility takes a big drop. That means they’re more likely to get serious about finding a mate in their later 20’s. With no biological pressure, men don’t have the same time frame. Some of them continue to think of themselves as boys – or “dudes” – and to think of adulthood as something way off in the distance.

This social observation shows the disconnect between men and women in this generation, and this disconnect is rooted in biology (though we're also seeing the social effects of it). As it turns out, Dan Eisenberg was on to something because evolution may favor older fathers and younger mothers, according to a recent, peer-reviewed study:

Thus old-age male fertility provides a selective force against autosomal deleterious mutations at ages far past female menopause with no sharp upper age limit, eliminating the wall of death. Our findings illustrate the evolutionary importance of males and mating preferences, and show that one-sex demographic models are insufficient to describe the forces that shape human senescence.

The above link provides statistical and scientific goodies for those interested in reading the details.

This reminds me some of a discussion that I had with Michael Kimmel, the author of Guyland. He pointed out that Millennial men have a lot of time to decide about family matters, such as who to marry and when. And both he and Kay Hymowitz have discovered this in the social world that happens to be well-known in the world of science.

In other words, yes, Millennial men may stand at the end of the isle at some point, just don't expect that to occur in high percentages for the next several decades. And if you build products around this demographic of men, keep this in mind as both a selling point and an assumption to avoid.