The antecedents of menarcheal age: heredity, family environment, and stressful life events

Child Dev. 1995 Apr;66(2):346-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1995.tb00875.x.


Variations in pubertal timing, specifically age at menarche, have been associated with several antecedents, both genetic and environmental. Recent research has considered a broader range of environmental stressors and their influence on the development of the reproductive system. In this investigation, the following possible antecedents were considered: (a) hereditary transmission, (b) weight and weight for height, (c) stressful life events, (d) family relations, (e) absence or presence of an adult male in the household, and (f) psychological adjustment. Subjects were 75 premenarcheal girls between the ages of 10 and 14 drawn from a larger longitudinal investigation of adolescent development. Girls were from white, well-educated, middle- to upper-middle-class families and attended private schools in a northeastern urban area. While breast development, weight, family relations, and depressive affect were predictive of age at menarche, family relations predicted age at menarche above the influence of breast development or weight. A trend for maternal age at menarche to predict adolescent's age at menarche was found. Weight for height, presence of an adult male in the household, and stressful events were not predictive of age at menarche. These complex interactions of biological and psychosocial development demonstrated here may account to some extent for the inter- and intraindividual variation observed in pubertal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Body Height / genetics
  • Body Weight / genetics
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Menarche / genetics*
  • Menarche / psychology
  • Sexual Maturation / genetics
  • Social Environment*