Cultural perceptions and practices around menarche and adolescent menstruation in the United States

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008:1135:58-66. doi: 10.1196/annals.1429.008.


This overview details the persistence of negative characterizations of the menstrual cycle as a feature of the current cultural context in which girls begin menstrual life in the United States. In addition, research on girls' current menstrual attitudes and experiences within this context are reviewed. Current research suggests that girls are not very knowledgeable about menstruation, and that menstrual education continues to provide girls with mixed messages, such as: menstruation is a normal, natural event, but it should be hidden. Girls' attitudes and expectations about menstruation are negatively biased and have been found to contribute to self-objectification, body shame, and lack of agency in sexual decision-making. Although preparation has been found to be associated with more positive menarcheal and menstrual experiences, specificity about what constitutes "good" preparation has not been well articulated. Implications for promoting the menstrual cycle among young girls as a vital sign in service of monitoring their health are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menarche / ethnology*
  • Menstruation / ethnology*
  • United States