Family Rearing Antecedents of Pubertal Timing


  • This research is directed by a steering committee and supported a cooperative agreement (U10) with NICHD requiring scientific collaboration between the grantees and NICHD staff. Participating investigators on the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, listed alphabetically, are: Jay Belsky, Birkbeck University of London; Cathryn Booth-LaForce, University of Washington; Robert Bradley, University of Arkansas, Little Rock; Celia Brownell, University of Pittsburgh; Susan B. Campbell, University of Pittsburgh; Elizabeth Cauffman, University of California, Irvine; K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, University of California, Irvine; Sarah L. Friedman, Institute for Public Research , The CNA Corporation, Alexandria, Virginia; Bonnie L. Halpern-Felsher, University of California San Francisco; Renate M. Houts, RTI International; Bonnie Knoke, RTI International; Kathleen McCartney, Harvard University; Philip Nader, University of California, San Diego; Marion O’Brien, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; Ross Parke, University of California, Riverside; Robert Pianta, University of Virginia; Glenn I. Roisman, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; Susan Spieker, University of Washington; Laurence D. Steinberg, Temple University; Elisabeth Susman, Penn State University; Deborah Lowe Vandell, University of California, Irvine; Marsha Weinraub, Temple University.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jay Belsky, Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, Birkbeck University of London, 7 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA, United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to


Two general evolutionary hypotheses were tested on 756 White children (397 girls) studied longitudinally: (1) rearing experiences would predict pubertal timing; and (2) children would prove differentially susceptible to rearing. Analysis of pubertal measurements, including some based on repeated physical assessments, showed that mothering and fathering, earlier and later in childhood, predicted pubertal development, but only for girls, with negative parenting appearing most influential; maternal harsh control predicted earlier menarche. Rearing effects varied by infant negative emotionality, proving stronger (and opposite) for girls who in infancy were lower rather than higher in negativity. Maternal menarche, controlled in all analyses, was a stronger predictor than rearing. Findings are discussed in terms of theory development, genetic and nutritional influences, and sample restrictions.