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Is low digit ratio linked with late menarche? Evidence from the BBC internet study




Age at menarche (AAM) in the general population may be influenced by prenatal sex steroids. The ratio of the second and fourth digits (2D:4D) is a putative correlate of prenatal sex steroids, but the relationship of 2D:4D to AAM is controversial. Matchock ([2008]: Am J Hum Biol 20:487-489) has reported that right 2D:4D (but not left) was negatively related to AAM, but Helle ([2010a]: Am J Hum Biol 22:418-420) found no relationship. Here the association between 2D:4D, AAM, and self-reported rate of pubertal development (RPD) is considered.


The sample consisted of self-measured finger lengths and AAM and RPD reported by women in the BBC internet study.


There were 70,658 white women who reported a mean (± SD) AAM of 12.54 (1.48) years. Right 2D:4D was negatively related to AAM and positively related to RPD. These relationships were independent of left 2D:4D, age and height. Between-country variation in right 2D:4D was also significantly related to AAM such that in countries with low 2D:4D women mean AAM was higher.


In support of the findings of Matchock, right 2D:4D was found to be negatively related to AAM. In addition, right 2D:4D was positively related to RPD. In a sample of 19 countries, mean right 2D:4D was negatively correlated with mean national AAM. These findings suggest that women with high prenatal testosterone and low prenatal estrogen tend to show late menarche and slow pubertal development. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 2011. © 2011Wiley-Liss, Inc.