I suspect that none of the researchers whose work was described in this article was ever a teenage girl with an absent (or distant) father. I think the simplest explanation is that the girls are looking for male affection and protection, which they can’t get any other way. Most of these girls just want to feel loved and valued as women.

Anita Lees
East Lansing, Mich.

The authors of the study seem to miss an obvious reason for later sexual activity among teenage girls whose fathers are still in the house: The fathers are protecting their daughters from predatory sexual advances by young men.

Robert Bauman Jr.
Amarillo College
Amarillo, Texas

It seems to me, as a father of a daughter born some decades ago, that researcher Bruce J. Ellis is missing what are to me the most likely implications of his study: that daughters with fathers present are fulfilling, in their suberotic loving relationship with the father, components of desire that encourages delay in sexual relationships. I recall studies showing that close relationships with fathers facilitate sexual relationships of later life, and another reporting that menarche is delayed in girls with the genetic father present. It seems to me that there probably are behavioral and physiological mechanisms, to some degree genetically (and thus evolutionarily) based, that encourage early reproduction in the emergency case of no present father and delayed reproduction in the relative stability of the home with the father present.

Will Rittenhouse
St. Louis, Mo.

Ellis generally agrees with this evolutionary theory, although the data to back it up are controversial .–B. Bower