Age and size at maturity in women: A norm of reaction?

Department of Anthropology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida 32816, USA.
American Journal of Human Biology (Impact Factor: 1.7). 05/2011; 23(3):305-12. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.21122
Source: PubMed


We present the first review and meta-analysis of the association between adult stature and age at menarche over a broad range of human societies. We then outline possible biological explanations for observed empirical associations.
We analyzed the association between adult stature and age at menarche in 141 samples from published reports, including 35 samples for which the within-sample association was also reported.
Overall and in small-scale societies, later age at menarche is associated with shorter adult stature. However, both between and within samples from industrialized societies, later age at menarche is associated with taller adult stature.
The pattern of associations between adult stature and age at menarche may be explicable as a norm of reaction that evolved according to predictions of life history theory. However, nonadaptive explanations are also plausible, especially for the positive association observed in industrialized societies.

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    • "First, shorter women may have more reproductive success than taller women because of the trade-off between investing energy in somatic growth or reproduction (Stearns, 1992). This trade-off is evidenced by the fact that women who have menarche at an earlier age typically reach a shorter adult height than women who have menarche at a later age (McIntyre and Kacerosky, 2011; Okasha et al., 2001). Similarly, women who have their first child at an earlier age are shorter than women who give birth at a later age (Helle, 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: In this article we examine the association between female height and reproductive success in a US sample and present a review of previous studies on this association. We also outline possible biological explanations for our findings. We used data from a long-term study of 5,326 female Wisconsin high school graduates to examine the association between female height and reproductive success. Twenty-one samples on this association were covered by our literature review. Shorter women had more children surviving to age 18 than taller women, despite increased child mortality in shorter women. Taller women had a higher age at first birth and age at first marriage and reached a higher social status, but the negative effect of height on reproductive success persisted after controlling for these variables. However, while these effects were quite consistent in Western populations, they were not consistently present in non-Western populations. Our review also indicated that child mortality was almost universally higher among shorter women. We conclude that shorter women have a higher number of live births but that final reproductive success depends on the positive effect of height on child survival.
    American Journal of Human Biology 07/2012; 24(4):486-94. DOI:10.1002/ajhb.22252 · 1.70 Impact Factor
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    • "Secondary sexual characteristics appear and the child's body develops into an adult body. Menarche, which commonly occurs in USA girls between the ages of 11 and 13, can be influenced by other factors, including how much relative body fat the girl has [31]. The percentage of body fat is lower at age 20 than at both ages 10 and 40 [32]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies have found that age at menarche is associated with stature, primarily via leg length. However, the effects appear to vary by population and/or time period. Improving socioeconomic conditions might amplify the association. To test whether the association between early menarche and reduced stature in industrialized countries is mediated by leg length. To further test whether these effects are modified by years of education, as a proxy for socioeconomic conditions. The study used data on from 3174 21-40 year-old women who participated in the third National Health and Nutrition Survey of the US (NHANES III). The anthropometric measurements employed were stature, sitting height and upper leg length. Leg length, lower leg length and ratio of sitting height to leg length were calculated. Earlier menarche was associated with shorter stature, by ~ 3.9 mm per year of advancement, all of which was attributable to shorter leg length. Almost two-thirds of the effect was in the lower (distal) leg. Years of education did not significantly modify effects of pubertal timing on stature or body proportions. Socioeconomic conditions might not explain variable associations between linear body proportions and pubertal timing.
    Annals of Human Biology 09/2011; 38(6):716-20. DOI:10.3109/03014460.2011.613853 · 1.27 Impact Factor
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