Childhood experiences of parenting and age at menarche, age at menopause and duration of reproductive lifespan: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Maturitas. 2019 Apr;122:66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2019.01.010. Epub 2019 Jan 23.


Objectives: The parent-child relationship is critical for human development, yet little is known about its association with offsprings' reproductive health outside the context of abuse and neglect. We investigated whether childhood experiences of poor-quality parenting (characterized as decreased parental care and increased parental overprotection) are associated with women's reproductive timing and lifespan.

Study design: Observational study of 2383 women aged 55-89 years in 2007 from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Multinomial logistic regression models were estimated.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported ages at menarche and menopause and duration of reproductive lifespan.

Results: Increasing maternal and paternal overprotection were associated with later menarche (≥16 years) after adjustment for age and childhood socioeconomic position (relative risk ratio (RRR) 1.11, 95% CI 1.02-1.21 and 1.11, 95% CI 1.01-1.21, respectively, per unit increase in the predictor). Increasing parental overprotection and decreasing paternal care were associated with earlier menarche (≤10 years). However, these associations were marginally non-significant. Maternal and paternal overprotection were also inversely associated with age at natural menopause after adjustment for age, childhood socioeconomic position and age at menarche (p value for linear trend = 0.041 and 0.004, respectively). Further, increasing paternal overprotection was associated with a shorter reproductive lifespan (≤33 years) (RRR 1.09 (1.01-1.18), per unit increase in the predictor) after adjustment for age and childhood socioeconomic position. Adjustment for additional childhood and adult factors did not explain these associations.

Conclusions: Women who experienced poor-quality parenting in childhood, especially increased levels of parental overprotection, might be at increased risk of an unfavourable reproductive health profile that is characterized by late or early menarche, premature menopause and a shorter reproductive lifespan.

Keywords: Ageing; Childhood; Cohort; Life course; Menarche; Menopause; Parental care; Parental overprotection; Parenting; Reproductive lifespan.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Menarche*
  • Menopause*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Parenting*
  • Reproduction
  • Reproductive Health*
  • Self Report