Now, an interesting thing to contemplate is that we as a society may be making a mistake to encourage people to wait so long to get married and have kids. At times I think it's a huge mistake. I could write a whole essay defending that, but here's a basic point to ponder: one of the biggest frustrations for women these days is that they delay and delay and delay having kids, put tons of time into career, then find themselves in their 30s with their biological alarm clocks going off, frantically thinking about having kids. Then when they have kids, they get hugely frustrated because balancing career and childrearing is exhausting.Not everything Mr. Esmay says is entirely accurate, by my understanding. While women did marry quite young by modern standards, men generally had to wait until they could afford to keep a wife (and the kids that would inevitably come soon after marriage). It's only recently that men and women near the same ages marry each other, and one can only speculate on the effect it's having on our civilization. Nothing is more fundamental to a species than its reproductive cycle, and I'm certain that these changes have wide-ranging effects, both subtle and obvious.
But what if you had 2-3 kids by the time you were 21, and then stopped having them? By the time you were in your mid-30s, you would have the next 30-40 years of your life to develop career, go to school, and persue outside interests. You'd also be able to begin playing with your own grandchildren while you were still young and vital, if your daughters started having kids at the same age you did. If this were widespread, it would be normal for parents to help their children start raising their own babies. Extended families would probably be more common, and the whole kids-vs.-career struggle would be hugely ameliorated. A woman in her early 30s would be in the prime of life, with endless possibilities still ahead of her to do whatever she wanted, with no worries at all about her "biological clock ticking," for she'd have taken care of that business long ago! ...
Listen up: I grew up knowing a lot of girls who got pregnant in their teens. Not a single one of them did not know how pregnancy occurred. Not a single one of them was unaware that she could get pregnant. Not a single one of them lacked access to birth control. Every single one of them got pregnant by choice. Sure, some of them would lie and say they "didn't know you could get pregnant just doing it once," or that it was an "accident," but the truth they just said that to make the adults happy. Every single one of them really knew better. They did it anyway.
It's odd to me that females are continuing to hit menarche at ever earlier ages, even as the age that women give birth to their first child continues to rise. This suggests that there is some reproductive benefit to starting menstruation younger, other than the obvious benefit that would be gained if women were also having children at younger ages.
I expect that much of the listlessness of today's youth arises from the fact that they're biologically capable of starting a family, but socially prohibited. I'm not saying this is a bad thing -- the immediate benefits certainly outweigh the costs, or it wouldn't be happening -- but what are the long-term costs? Our society couldn't function without a core cadre of highly-trained college graduates, and as technology advances it's possible that the size of that required core may increase relative to the population. If that's the case, then it may be necessary for the average child-bearing age to rise.
However, in my opinion much of our population is ever-educated. Many people go to college, learn almost nothing, waste 4 (or 5, or 6) years, and then get a job they could have done right out of high school. Not only is this a drain on our economy and a waste of resources for all parties, but college generally delays the decision to get married and have kids.
Reproduction touches every aspect of human society, and I have no doubt there are nearly an infinite number of factors that contribute to and result from these cultural trends. It's possible that our "cultural depravity" is one result and our technological progress is another. Maybe you can't have one without the other. Personally, I don't believe there was a "cultural golden age" in which morally sound values ruled the day, so I'm not sure we've sacrificed anything substantial in that regard. Maybe I'm wrong about that, though.
Here's some info I dug up about marriage ages throughout history.
Ancient Greeks married at age 30 for men, 15 for women (when females hit puberty back then).
Europeans in the Middle Ages did similarly.
19th and 20th Century Americans married later, with both men and women in their 20s.
Elizabethan Brits married pretty old, apparently.