Daughters of divorced fathers begin childbearing earlier than daughters of deceased fathers

Daughters of divorced fathers begin childbearing earlier than daughters of deceased fathers

New research published in Evolution and human behavior found that girls whose fathers were divorced started childbearing about 9.2 months earlier than girls whose fathers were no longer living.

Researchers have been interested in studying why and how stressful childhood experiences affect sexual maturation, behaviors and reproductive outcomes. Daughters who grow up without a father may begin childbearing earlier because absence is an index of environmental harshness and uncertainty in which a rapid life history strategy is favored. Alternatively, the tendency could be the result of genetic factors.

Researchers Markus Valge and his colleagues wanted to determine whether the absence of a father, mother, or both was most associated with the early onset of puberty in girls. The researchers used a large dataset to study girls born between 1936 and 1962 in Estonia. Valge and her colleagues gained access to information on the girls’ puberty rate (via breast development stages), when they had their first child, and their overall reproductive success (how many children they had in the past). course of their life). The girls grew up in orphanages, motherless or fatherless due to divorce or death.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that girls whose fathers were divorced began childbearing about 9.2 months earlier than girls who grew up with only their father or both parents present, and about 7.4 months earlier than girls whose fathers had died. However, the difference in age of onset of childbearing was not significant once education was controlled.

Girls whose mother died had 0.25 fewer children in their lifetime on average than girls who grew up with only a mother or father. There was no difference in the number of children girls had when their father died compared to girls who had grown up in an orphanage.

This study indicates that stressful childhood environments do not predict faster sexual maturation for girls when education is controlled for. Valge and colleagues argue that this may be due to low test power and confounding variables. However, there was an association between the age of girls when they had their first child and whether their parents were divorced. Valge and colleagues argue that this could be explained by Flinn’s hypothesis which suggests that fathers protect their daughters from predatory males, so that daughters with fathers in their lives reproduce later in life.

However, this hypothesis is only partially supported because girls whose fathers died did not have children significantly earlier than girls whose fathers were present. Valge and colleagues argue that the grandmother hypothesis (in which mothers help promote the survival of their grandchildren) is supported, considering that daughters whose mothers died had an average of 0.25 children by less.

A limitation of this study is that there was no information on whether a stepparent was involved in families in which mothers and fathers were absent. There was also a lack of information on the girls’ ages at the time of a parent’s death or divorce.

The study, “Pubertal maturation is independent of family structure, but daughters of divorced (but not deceased) fathers start childbearing earlier,” was authored by Markus Valge, Richard Meitern and Peeter Hõrak.

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