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      Cross-cultural evidence does not support universal acceleration of puberty in father-absent households


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          Father absence in early life has been shown to be associated with accelerated reproductive development in girls. Evolutionary social scientists have proposed several adaptive hypotheses for this finding. Though there is variation in the detail of these hypotheses, they all assume that family environment in early life influences the development of life-history strategy, and, broadly, that early reproductive development is an adaptive response to father absence. Empirical evidence to support these hypotheses, however, has been derived from WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) populations. Data from a much broader range of human societies are necessary in order to properly test adaptive hypotheses. Here, we review the empirical literature on father absence and puberty in both sexes, focusing on recent studies that have tested this association beyond the WEIRD world. We find that relationships between father absence and age at puberty are more varied in contexts beyond WEIRD societies, and when relationships beyond the father–daughter dyad are considered. This has implications for our understanding of how early-life environment is linked to life-history strategies, and for our understanding of pathways to adult health outcomes, given that early reproductive development may be linked to negative health outcomes in later life

          This article is part of the theme issue ‘Developing differences: early-life effects and evolutionary medicine’.

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          Timing of pubertal maturation in girls: an integrated life history approach.

          Life history theory provides a metatheoretical framework for the study of pubertal timing from an evolutionary-developmental perspective. The current article reviews 5 middle-level theories--energetics theory, stress-suppression theory, psychosocial acceleration theory, paternal investment theory, and child development theory--each of which applies the basic assumptions of life history theory to the question of environmental influences on timing of puberty in girls. These theories converge in their conceptualization of pubertal timing as responsive to ecological conditions but diverge in their conceptualization of (a) the nature, extent, and direction of environmental influences and (b) the effects of pubertal timing on other reproductive variables. Competing hypotheses derived from the 5 perspectives are evaluated. An extension of W. T. Boyce and B. J. Ellis's (in press) theory of stress reactivity is proposed to account for both inhibiting and accelerating effects of psychosocial stress on timing of pubertal development. This review highlights the multiplicity of (often unrecognized) perspectives guiding research, raises challenges to virtually all of these, and presents an alternative framework in an effort to move research forward in this arena of multidisciplinary inquiry.
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            The weathering hypothesis and the health of African-American women and infants: evidence and speculations.

            Observed variation between populations in fertility-timing distributions has been thought to contribute to infant mortality differentials. This hypothesis is based, in part, on the belief that the 20s through early 30s constitute "prime" childbearing ages that are low-risk relative to younger or older ages. However, when stratified by racial identification over the predominant first child-bearing ages, maternal age patterns of neonatal mortality vary between groups. Unlike non-Hispanic white infants, African-American infants with teen mothers experience a survival advantage relative to infants whose mothers are older. The black-white infant mortality differential is larger at older maternal ages than at younger ages. While African Americans and non-Hispanic whites differ on which maternal ages are associated with the lowest risk of neonatal mortality, within each population, first births are most frequent at its lowest-risk maternal ages. As a possible explanation for racial variation in maternal age patterns of births and birth outcomes, the "weathering hypothesis" is proposed: namely, that the health of African-American women may begin to deteriorate in early adulthood as a physical consequence of cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage.
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              Father Absence and Reproductive Strategy: An Evolutionary Perspective


                Author and article information

                Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
                Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci
                Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
                The Royal Society
                15 April 2019
                25 February 2019
                25 February 2019
                : 374
                : 1770 , Theme issue ‘Developing differences: early-life effects and evolutionary medicine’ compiled and edited by Bram Kuijper, Mark A. Hanson, Emma I. K. Vitikainen, Harry H. Marshall, Susan E. Ozanne and Michael A. Cant
                : 20180124
                [1 ]Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine , London, UK
                [2 ]Department of Sociology , University of Oxford, Oxford UK
                [3 ]Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University , Joondalup, Australia
                Author notes

                One contribution of 18 to a theme issue ‘ Developing differences: early-life effects and evolutionary medicine’.

                Electronic supplementary. material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4377194.

                Author information
                © 2019 The Authors.

                Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

                : 17 January 2019
                Funded by: Edith Cowan University, http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100001798;
                Award ID: Visiting Fellow and Capability Enhancement Grants.
                Funded by: H2020 European Research Council, http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100010663;
                Award ID: StG-2010 263760-FAMMAT
                Review Article
                Custom metadata
                April 15, 2019

                Philosophy of science
                puberty,father absence,cross-cultural,menarche,family structure,early-life environment


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