Toward a new understanding of early menarche: the role of environmental stress in pubertal timing

Adolescence. 1993 Winter;28(112):913-24.


A recent theory (Belsky, Steinberg, & Draper, 1991) suggests that environmental stress may trigger early menarche in adolescents. This is in contrast to a more traditional view that early menarche is biologically determined and serves as a risk factor for developing girls. The purpose of the present study was to examine two family stressors, divorce and interparental conflict, in light of the Belsky et al. theory. Participants were 71 adolescent females and their mothers. Of these, 44 were from intact families (i.e., the parents were married), and 27 were from divorced families. Age at first menarche was obtained via self-report. Maternal reports of interparental conflict as well as adolescent perception of conflict were obtained. Mothers reported on marital status. Results showed that, compared to girls from intact families, those from divorced families had an earlier onset of menarche. In addition, higher maternal reports of interparental conflict were significantly related to earlier menarche in the total sample. Results are discussed in relation to the Belsky et al. theory as well as traditional views of early menarche.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Menarche / psychology*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Puberty / psychology*
  • Social Environment*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*