Although we can still improve things, we have come a long way as regards children. At least in western culture. I've been reading a little about roman and medieval culture. Back in those days girls as young as twelve were being married. Today we consider this rape.
My recollections of being twelve are vague at best. But I have a child of thirteen, and trying to imagine this person being married is beyond my ability. It doesn't fit. I watch the children come out of school and I do not see young women and young men. I see girls and boys. How can someone look upon these children and become aroused? They're so young and innocent (to my eyes). And maybe that's what pedephilia is all about. The destruction of innocense.
Granted, back in medieval and roman times marriage was not generally based on any kind of love feelings. It was based on money and/or political strength. Children were just another piece of property to be used for selfish gain. And as everyone was doing this nobody saw it as wrong.
I wonder how it managed to change.
The concept of young marriage makes world building difficult. Especially in a culture which has become acutely aware of predator adults preying upon children and using sex as their weapon. But there are those in our own society, today, who feel that even eighteen-year-olds are too young to be married.
Some believe that the ability to produce children is proof of marriage readiness. I don't see how that can be true. Not in our society, at least. I have heard of girls as young as twelve being raped and bearing children. I think it may also be around that age that boys begin producing sperm. That's about the age of puberty. It varies from person to person, and it's more of a process than an event, I think.
I guess I am too caught up in modern thinking to accept - or create - a culture in which twelve-year-old humans are married. I look at my own child and think that would be sick. They're not ready.
But when could they be?
I wonder if in a simpler culture younger works, while in a more complex culture it doesn't. Part of being married is surviving together in the world. Western culture is fraught with so many predators of varying kinds that the only way a young marriage could work would be if they lived at the home of one or the other's parent/s or guardian/s. For protection.
I kind of use that approach in my worldbuilding. Sometimes. When I have a culture which allows young marriages, sixteen or seventeen, it is because the couple will continue to live in the home of either the bride's or groom's parents. But I suppose I am still affected by modern thinking because I never have thirty-year-old men marry sixteen-year-old girls. For the most part, I have my marries fairly close in age.
And yet that was not how it was done in real life. But that was a different culture in a different time.