Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study Sheds Light on Why Girls With Absent Fathers Tend to Go Through Puberty Earlier Than Girls From Intact Families

10.09.2008
A study by a University of Arizona researcher and a colleague offers some insight on a phenomenon affecting girls who grow up in homes minus their biological fathers, and why they tend to go through puberty at an earlier age than their peers in intact families.

Professor Bruce J. Ellis, the John and Doris Norton Endowed Chair in Fathers, Parenting and Families at the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Jacqueline M. Tither at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, have just published their study in the journal Developmental Psychology.

Ellis and Tither's study sought to unravel several competing theories about how this happens.

Those theories vary from whether dysfunctional families and absent fathers are the cause of early puberty, or underlying environmental factors that cause family stress, such as poverty, or whether there might be a genetic link.

Understanding what triggers early puberty could give health care officials an advantage in dealing with issues that sometimes accompany it. Early puberty is often cited as a risk factor for young women, linking them to early pregnancy and an array of health problems, such as breast cancer.

Ellis and Tither interviewed sisters in the same family who differed in age. The sample included 90 intact families and 70 families where the parents had divorced. Questions centered around family composition, who the girls were growing up with and when, the nature of the father's involvement and paternal warmth.

"Our goal was to test for the causal effect of family environments and particularly the father's role in the family on a daughter's age of puberty," Ellis said. "We looked at families in which one daughter might be five and the other 12 when a divorce occurred. So the youngest daughter had seven more years living in a disrupted family without her father, compared to her older sister. Our study showed that more exposure to father absence was linked to earlier puberty."

Ellis said lots of research over the years, including his own, has documented the effect, but left a basic unanswered question.

"That is, there has always been a basic alternative explanation for this finding. The theory that we're working from suggests that something about children's experiences in their families, and particularly about the presence of different members of the families in the home, actually alters the reproductive axis and timing of puberty," Ellis said.

"The idea is that children adjust their development to match the environments in which they live," Ellis said. "In the world in which humans evolved, dangerous or unstable home environments meant a shorter lifespan, and going into puberty earlier in this context increased chances of surviving, reproducing and passing on your genes."

Ellis said an alternative explanation suggests the whole thing is spurious, that it may not be that growing up without a father causes early puberty in girls. It may be some third variable out there causes both family disruption and early puberty. And that could be genetic in origin.

"We know that father absence and early puberty go together. But we don't know why and we don't know how. This study was meant to figure out that issue. The importance of this research was to show that the link is real: exposure to fathers can actually alter their daughters' sexual development."

Ellis noted that divorced families can have other factors that stress its members, such as alcoholism, drug use, depression, family violence or criminal activity. More important than the absence of a father are the characteristics of the father and what he did. "It's not enough to simply have a cardboard cut-out of a father sitting on the couch. What the father does is critical," said Ellis.

Ellis said the most dramatic finding of the study was that in divorced families with a father who had a history of socially deviant behavior, that the younger sisters who had less exposure to their fathers tended to go through puberty nearly a year earlier than their older sisters. They also went through puberty nearly a year earlier than other younger sisters who were not exposed to dysfunctional fathers.

"We found that girls with very high levels of exposure to stress early in life, who then had that stressor removed, tended to go through quite early puberty," he said. "This actually concurs with international adoption studies showing that girls from third-world countries who had a lot of stress in early childhood and were adopted into Western societies tend to have very high rates of early puberty. It is consistent with there being a sensitive period for changes in stresses and life situations. And that could be relevant for parents."

Ellis and Tither’s research was supported by a grant from Fathering the Future Trust, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Contact: Bruce J. Ellis, 520-626-5703, bjellis@email.arizona.edu

Jeff Harrison | University of Arizona
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>