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Early-life conditions and age at first pregnancy in British women

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle, Dr David Coady


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There is growing evidence that the reproductive schedules of female mammals can be affected byconditions experienced during early development, with low parental investment leading to acceleratedlife-history strategies in the offspring. In humans, the relationships between early-life conditions andtiming of puberty are well studied, but much less attention has been paid to reproductive behaviour.Here, we investigate associations between early-life conditions and age at first pregnancy (AFP) in alarge, longitudinally studied cohort of British women (n=4553). Low birthweight for gestational age,short duration of breastfeeding, separation from mother in childhood, frequent family residentialmoves and lack of paternal involvement are all independently associated with earlier first pregnancy.Apart from that of birthweight, the effects are robust to adjustment for family socioeconomic position(SEP) and the cohort member’s mother’s age at her birth. The association between childhood SEPand AFP is partially mediated by early-life conditions, and the association between early-life conditionsand AFP is partially mediated by emotional and behavioural problems in childhood. The overall relationshipbetween early-life adversities and AFP appears to be approximately additive.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nettle D, Coall DA, Dickins TE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences

Year: 2011

Volume: 278

Issue: 1712

Pages: 1721-1727

Print publication date: 10/11/2010

ISSN (print): 0962-8452

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2954

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1726


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