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Dev Psychol. 2010 Jan;46(1):120-8. doi: 10.1037/a0015549.

The development of reproductive strategy in females: early maternal harshness --> earlier menarche --> increased sexual risk taking.

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Instititute for Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, Birkbeck University of London, 7 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA, United Kingdom.


To test a proposition central to J. Belsky, L. Steinberg, and P. Draper's (1991) evolutionary theory of socialization-that pubertal maturation plays a role in linking early rearing experience with adolescent sexual risk taking (i.e., frequency of sexual behavior) and, perhaps, other risk taking (e.g., alcohol, drugs, delinquency)-the authors subjected longitudinal data on 433 White, 62 Black, and 31 Hispanic females to path analysis. Results showed (a) that greater maternal harshness at 54 months predicted earlier age of menarche; (b) that earlier age of menarche predicted greater sexual (but not other) risk taking; and (c) that maternal harshness exerted a significant indirect effect, via earlier menarche, on sexual risk taking (i.e., greater harshness --> earlier menarche --> greater sexual risk taking) but only a direct effect on other risk taking. Results are discussed in terms of evolutionary perspectives on human development and reproductive strategy, and future directions for research are outlined.

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