Early-life conditions and age at first pregnancy in British women (2011)

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

    Abstract: 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.

      • Date: 10-11-2010
      • Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences
      • Volume: 278
      • Issue: 1712
      • Pages: 1721-1727
      • Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing
      • Publication type: Article
      • Bibliographic status: Published

      Keywords: * developmental plasticity * developmental programming * maternal effects * parental effects * life history * National Child Development Study


      Professor Daniel Nettle
      Professor of Behavioural Science