A prospective study of childhood social hardships and age at menarche

Ann Epidemiol. 2012 Oct;22(10):731-7. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.08.005. Epub 2012 Sep 5.


Purpose: To determine the role of type, timing, and cumulative childhood hardships on age at menarche in a prospective cohort study.

Methods: A longitudinal analysis was undertaken of 4524 female participants of the National Child Development Study cohort (1958-2003). Six types of childhood hardships were identified with a factor analysis methodology. Paternal absence/low involvement in childhood was an a priori hardship. Retrospective reports of abuse in childhood also were explored in relation to age at menarche. Generalized logit regression analyses explored the impact of type, timing, and cumulative hardships on age at menarche (≤ 11, 12-13, ≥ 14 years).

Results: Cumulative childhood hardships were associated with a graded increase in risk for later menarche with adjusted odds ratio [AOR] of 1.37 (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 1.10-1.70), 1.50 (95% CI, 1.18-1.91), and 1.58 (95% CI, 1.29-1.92) among those with two, three, and four or more adversities, respectively. More than two hardships in early life had the strongest association with late menarche (AOR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.12-4.80). Sexual abuse was most strongly associated with early menarche (AOR, 2.60; 95% CI, 1.40-4.81).

Conclusions: Cumulative childhood hardships increased risk for later age at menarche. Child abuse was associated with both early and late menarche, although associations varied by type of abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Menarche*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychosocial Deprivation*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom