Father Absence, Childhood Stressors, and Reproductive Maturation in South Africa

Kermyt G. Anderson, University of Oklahoma

The hypothesis that father absence and childhood psychosocial stress influence age at menarche, first sexual intercourse, and first pregnancy is tested using data from Wave I of the Cape Area Panel Study, which collected data on sexual behavior and childhood environment from a representative sample of 2,215 girls ages 14-22 in Cape Town, South Africa. Using Cox proportional hazards modeling to control for censoring, the results find weak support for the hypothesis. Father absence has no effect on menarche, and only weak effects on first sex and first pregnancy. Childhood stressors have no effects on age at menarche. Of the childhood stressors examined, only the presence of alcohol and/or drug abuse in the childhood household has a consistent association with earlier first sex and first pregnancy. In general, father absence and childhood stress have no effects on reproductive behavior for blacks, and the largest effects are seen for coloureds.

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Presented in Session 124: Parents and Adolescent Sexual Behavior