Parent–Daughter Transmission of the Androgen Receptor Gene as an Explanation of the Effect of Father Absence on Age of Menarche

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Abstract

Based on an evolutionary theory of socialization, Belsky and colleagues proposed that girls exposed to a stressful environment, especially when due to father absence in the first 7 years of life, showed an early onset of puberty, precocious sexuality, and unstable relationships as adults. The authors of this article examined an alternative explanation that a variant X–linked androgen receptor (AR) gene, predisposing the father to behaviors that include family abandonment, may be passed to their daughters causing early puberty, precocious sexuality, and behavior problems. The results of a study of 121 White males and 164 White females showed a significant association of the short alleles of the GGC repeat polymorphism of the AR gene with a range of measures of aggression and impulsivity, increased number of sexual partners, sexual compulsivity, and lifetime number of sex partners in males; and paternal divorce, father absence, and early age of menarche in females. These findings support a genetic explanation of the Belsky psychosocial evolutionary hypothesis regarding the association of fathers’ absence and parental stress with early age of onset of menarche and early sexual activity in their daughters. A genetic explanation of the father absence effect is proposed in which fathers carrying the AR alleles are more likely to abandon a marriage (father absence) and pass those alleles to their daughters in whom they produce an earlier age of menarche and behavioral problems.

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