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Age and size at maturity in women: A norm of reaction?

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Abstract

Objectives: We present the first review and meta-analysis of the association between adult stature and age at menarche over a broad range of human societies. We then outline possible biological explanations for observed empirical associations.

Methods: We analyzed the association between adult stature and age at menarche in 141 samples from published reports, including 35 samples for which the within-sample association was also reported.

Results: Overall and in small-scale societies, later age at menarche is associated with shorter adult stature. However, both between and within samples from industrialized societies, later age at menarche is associated with taller adult stature.

Conclusions: The pattern of associations between adult stature and age at menarche may be explicable as a norm of reaction that evolved according to predictions of life history theory. However, nonadaptive explanations are also plausible, especially for the positive association observed in industrialized societies. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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