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Child Dev. 2009 Sep-Oct;80(5):1463-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01345.x.

Associations between father absence and age of first sexual intercourse.

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  • 1University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1227, USA.


Children raised without a biological father in the household have earlier average ages of first sexual intercourse than children raised in father-present households. Competing theoretical perspectives have attributed this either to effects of father absence on socialization and physical maturation or to nonrandom selection of children predisposed for early sexual intercourse into father-absent households. Genetically informative analyses of the children of sister dyads (N = 1,382, aged 14-21 years) support the selection hypothesis: This association seems attributable to confounded risks, most likely genetic in origin, which correlated both with likelihood of father absence and early sexual behavior. This holds implications for environmental theories of maturation and suggests that previous research may have inadvertently overestimated the role of family structure in reproductive maturation.

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