Menarche denotes the onset of the female reproductive capacity. The age that menarche occurs is mostly attributed to the interaction of genetics and various environmental factors. Herein, the author describes the evolution of the age at menarche from prehistoric to the present times. Data from skeletal remains suggest that in the Paleolithic woman menarche occurred at an age between 7 and 13 years, early sexual maturation being a trade-off for reduced life expectancy. In the classical, as well as in the medieval years, the age at menarche was generally reported to be at approximately 14 years, with a range from 12 to 15 years. A significant retardation of the age at menarche occurred in the beginning of the modern times, soon after the industrial revolution, due to the deterioration of the living conditions, with most studies reporting menarche to occur at 15-16 years. In the 20th century, especially in the second half of it, in the industrialized countries, the age at menarche decreased significantly, as a result of the improvement of the socioeconomic conditions, occurring at 12-13 years. In the present times, in the developed countries, this trend seems to slow down or level off.
Keywords: Age at menarche; Life history; Medieval times; Menarche; Modern times; Prehistoric times; Pubertal maturation; Secular trend.
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