Skip to main content Accessibility help

Early menarche and its relationship to paternal migrant work among middle-school-aged students in China

  • Bingzheng Zhang (a1), Ting Yu (a1), Qiuxing Chen (a1), Kaye Wellings (a2), Theresa M. Oniffrey (a3), Junrui Ma (a1), Limin Huang (a1), Suiqiong Fan (a1), Lu Ma (a1), Rui Li (a1) and Yuliang Zou (a1)...


Associations have been shown between father’s absence and menarcheal age, but most studies have focused on absence resulting from divorce, abandonment or death. Little research has been conducted to evaluate the effect on menarcheal age of paternal absence through migrant work. In a sample of 400 middle school students, this study examined the association between paternal migrant work and menarcheal age against a backdrop of extensive rural-to-urban migration in China. Data were collected through a self-reported questionnaire, including social-demographic characteristics, aspects of family relationships, information about father’s migrant work and age at menarche. After adjusting for BMI, parent marital status and perceived relationship with mother, lower self-perceived quality of father–daughter relationship (both ‘father present, relationship poor’ and ‘father absent, relationship poor’) and lower frequency of contact with the father were associated with higher odds for early menarche. These findings suggest that the assumption that father’s absence for work influences the timing of menarche needs to be examined in the context of the quality of the father–daughter relationship and paternal care, which appear to play a critical role in the timing of menarche. These findings also emphasize the importance of enhancing paternal involvement and improving father–daughter relationships in the development of appropriate reproductive strategy in daughters.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All

These authors contributed equally to this work.



Hide All
Belsky, J, Steinberg, L and Draper, P (1991) Childhood experience, interpersonal development, and reproductive strategy: and evolutionary theory of socialization. Child Development 62(4), 647670.
Blumenthal, H, Leen-Feldner, EW, Babson, KA, Gahr, JL, Trainor, CD and Frala, JL (2011) Elevated social anxiety among early maturing girls. Developmental Psychology 47(4), 11331140.
Bogaert, AF (2008) Menarche and father absence in a national probability sample. Journal of Biosocial Science 40(4), 623636.
Chen, L, Li, S, He, C, Zhu, Y, Buck Louis, GM, Yeung, E, Hu, FB and Zhang, C (2016) Age at menarche and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: a prospective cohort study among 27, 482 women. Diabetes Care 39(3), 469471.
China Women’s Federation (2013) China’s rural left-behind children: rural and urban migrant children research report. Chinese Women’s Movement 6, 3034.
Copeland, W, Shanahan, L, Miller, S, Costello, EJ, Angold, A and Maughan, B (2010) Outcomes of early pubertal timing in young women: a prospective population-based study. American Journal of Psychiatry 167(10), 12181225.
Costello, EJ, Sung, M, Worthman, C and Angold, A (2007) Pubertal maturation and the development of alcohol use and abuse. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 88 (Supplement 1), S5059.
Downing, J and Bellis, M A (2009) Early pubertal onset and its relationship with sexual risk taking, substance use and anti-social behaviour: a preliminary cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 9(1), 446.
Draper, P and Harpending, H (1982) Father absence and reproductive strategy– an evolutionary perspective. Journal of Anthropological Research 38(3), 255273.
Draper, P and Harpending, H (1988) A Sociobiological Perspective on the Development of Human Reproductive Strategies. Springer, New York, pp. 340372.
Ellis, BJ (2004) Timing of pubertal maturation in girls: an integrated life history approach. Psychological Bulletin 130(6), 920958.
Ellis, BJ and Garber, J (2000) Psychosocial antecedents of variation in girls’ pubertal timing: maternal depression, stepfather presence, and marital and family stress. Child Development 71(2), 485501.
Ellis, BJ, Mcfadyen-Ketchum, S, Dodge, KA, Pettit, GS and Bates, JE (1999) Quality of early family relationships and individual differences in the timing of pubertal maturation in girls: a longitudinal test of an evolutionary model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77(2), 387401.
Ellis, BJ, Schlomer, GL, Tilley, EH and Butler, EA (2012) Impact of fathers on risky sexual behavior in daughters: a genetically and environmentally controlled sibling study. Development and Psychopathology 24(1), 317332.
General Information of Baofeng County (2017) [in Chinese] URL: (accessed 16th June 2018).
Glynn, JR, Kayuni, N, Floyd, S, Banda, E, Francis-Chizororo, M, Tanton, C et al. (2010) Age at menarche, schooling, and sexual debut in northern Malawi. Plos One 5(12), e15334.
Jean, RT, Wilkinson, AV, Spitz, MR, Prokhorov, A, Bondy, M and Forman, MR (2011) Psychosocial risk and correlates of early menarche in Mexican-American girls. American Journal of Epidemiology 173(10), 12031210.
Lee, MH, Kim, SH, Oh, M, Lee, KW and Park, MJ (2016) Age at menarche in Korean adolescents: trends and influencing factors. Reproductive Health 13(1), 121.
Lehmann, A, Scheffler, C and Hermanussen, M (2010) The variation in age at menarche: an indicator of historic developmental tempo. Anthropologischer Anzeiger 68(1), 8599.
Ley, SH, Li, Y, Tobias, DK, Manson, JE, Rosner, B, Hu, FB and Rexrode, KM (2017) Duration of reproductive life span, age at menarche, and age at menopause are associated with risk of cardiovascular disease in women. Journal of the American Heart Association 6(11), e006713.
Meng, X, Li, S, Duan, W, Sun, Y and Jia, C (2017) Secular trend of age at menarche in Chinese adolescents born from 1973 to 2004. Pediatrics 140(2), e20170085.
Meng, X and Yamauchi, C (2017) Children of migrants: the cumulative impact of parental migration on children’s education and health outcomes in China. Demography 54(5), 16771714.
Morris, DH, Jones, ME, Schoemaker, MJ, Ashworth, A and Swerdlow, AJ (2011) Secular trends in age at menarche in women in the UK born 1908–93: results from the Breakthrough Generations Study. Paediatric Perinatal Epidemiology 25(4), 394400.
Nettle, D, Coall, DA and Dickins, TE (2011) Early-life conditions and age at first pregnancy in British women. Proceedings Biological Sciences 278(1712), 17211727.
Nettle, D and Cockerill, M (2010) Development of social variation in reproductive schedules: a study from an English urban area. PloS One 5(9), e12690.
Quinlan, RJ (2003) Father absence, parental care, and female reproductive development. Evolution and Human Behavior 24(6), 376390.
Romans, SE, Martin, JM, Gendall, K and Herbison, GP (2003) Age of menarche: the role of some psychosocial factors. Psychological Medicine 33(5), 933939.
Shenk, MK, Starkweather, K, Kress, HC and Alam, N (2013) Does absence matter? A comparison of three types of father absence in rural Bangladesh. Human Nature 24(1), 76110.
Su, S, Li, X, Lin, D, Xu, X and Zhu, M (2013) Psychological adjustment among left-behind children in rural China: the role of parental migration and parent–child communication. Child Care Health and Development 39(2), 162170.
Sun, Y, Tao, FB, Su, PY, Mai, JC, Shi, HJ, Han, YT, et al. (2012) National estimates of the pubertal milestones among urban and rural Chinese girls. Journal of Adolescent Health 51(3), 279284.
Tither, JM and Ellis, BJ (2008) Impact of fathers on daughters’ age at menarche: a genetically and environmentally controlled sibling study. Developmental Psychology 44(5), 14091420.
Webster, GD, Graber, JA, Gesselman, AN, Crosier, BS and Schember, TO (2014) A life history theory of father absence and menarche: a meta-analysis. Evolutionary Psychology 12(2), 273294.
Zheng, YK, Zheng, ZL, Liu, XM, Gao, WX and Fan, HM (2015) Annual Report on Social Governance Development of Henan. Social Science Academic Press, Beijing.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Early menarche and its relationship to paternal migrant work among middle-school-aged students in China

  • Bingzheng Zhang (a1), Ting Yu (a1), Qiuxing Chen (a1), Kaye Wellings (a2), Theresa M. Oniffrey (a3), Junrui Ma (a1), Limin Huang (a1), Suiqiong Fan (a1), Lu Ma (a1), Rui Li (a1) and Yuliang Zou (a1)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.