Father Absence, Body Mass Index, and Pubertal Timing in Girls: Differential Effects by Family Income and Ethnicity

Division of Community Health and Human Development, School of Public Health, University of California-Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
Journal of Adolescent Health (Impact Factor: 2.75). 05/2011; 48(5):441-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.07.032
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Numerous studies show associations between father absence and girls' early puberty. However, most research has been retrospective, focused on menarche, and failed to consider body mass index (BMI), ethnicity, and income in the analyses. This study resolves these scientific gaps.
This was a prospective study of 444 girls aged 6-8 years and their caregivers (96% mothers). Data were collected annually in clinic, including weight, height, and Tanner stage for breast and pubic hair. Caregivers reported on father absence and demographics. This report focuses on the assessment of father absence at baseline and 2 years of follow-up for pubertal outcomes. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to test whether father absence at baseline predicted pubertal onset by follow-up visit 2. BMI was assumed to be in the causal pathway. Differences by ethnicity and income were examined.
Income and ethnicity moderated associations between father absence and pubertal onset when adjusting for BMI. Father absence predicted earlier onset of breast development only in higher-income families and onset of pubic hair development only in higher-income African Americans families. BMI was not related to father absence and therefore was not in the causal pathway.
Among girls from higher-income families, father absence was linked to earlier puberty. This was particularly true for African Americans in terms of pubic hair development. These effects are not explained by body weight. Future research is needed to identify social and biophysiological mechanisms through which father absence, ethnicity, and income affect the pubertal onset.

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Available from: Louise Greenspan, May 08, 2014
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    • "estradiol levels and gray matter density in girls we can only speculate. Possible candidates for this environmental source are nutrition, as body mass index has been shown to advance the start of puberty (Wagner et al. 2012), or father absence, the effect of which is moderated by ethnicity and income (Deardorff et al. 2011). Although the evidence for a shared genetic background for pubertal brain development and pubertal hormones is limited in our cohort, there are certainly genes that influence both processes. "
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    • "The mechanisms stimulating this response include father absence, and family aggression and stress, a process Ellis (2004) referred to as ''psychosocial acceleration theory;'' the role of father absence he called ''paternal investment theory.'' Researchers evaluating this theory have found correlations between father absence and MT (Chisolm et al. 2005; Deardorff et al. 2011; Doughty and Rodgers 2000; Hoier 2003; Mustanski et al. 2004; Rowe 2002; see Brooks-Gunn 1988 for an exception). "
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    • "mably through altered levels of reproductive hor - mones , and that girls may be particularly susceptible to such psychosocial stress . Extensive research supports this notion , with stressful family relationships , elevated levels of conflict and depression , and father absence all predicting earlier sexual development in girls ( Bogaert , 2005 ; Deardorff et al . , 2011 ; Ellis & Essex , 2007 ; Ellis & Garber , 2000 ; Tither & Ellis , 2008 ) . A limited amount of research has examined similar associations in boys , yielding inconclusive results that either suggest comparable ( Bogaert , 2005 ; Ellis & Essex , 2007 ) or no effects ( Belsky et al . , 2007 ) on boys ' sexual develop - ment ; therefore it "
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