Early puberty in first-born daughters linked to prenatal stress in their mothers

early puberty in first-born daughters linked to prenatal stress in their mothers

Early puberty in first-born daughters linked to prenatal stress in their mothers

A UCLA-led team of researchers has found a correlation between early signs of adrenal puberty in first-born daughters and their mothers’ having experienced high levels of prenatal stress. They did not find the same result in boys or daughters who were not first-born.

The 15-year longitudinal study’s findings were published in the February issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

The study was the first to identify earlier patterns of adrenal puberty as a result of prenatal stress. Adrenal puberty is marked by changes like the growth of body hair, pimples and aspects of cognitive maturation, but does not include breast development or the onset of menstruation for girls or testicular enlargement for boys.

The finding adds to research in the field of fetal programming, studies that explore the impact that stress and other factors affecting pregnant mothers can have on fetuses and children long after birth.

“This is a first-of-its-kind finding and is fascinating to look at through an evolutionary lens,” said UCLA anthropologist Molly Fox, who led the study with colleagues from UC Irvine, UC Merced, Chapman University and the University of Denver.

Fox explains that a first-born daughter’s maturation, but not early onset of menstruation, may enable her to help her mother rear her other children successfully. The daughter becomes mature enough to help take care of children while not yet able to produce her own children, who would require her attention.

The finding also provides insights into the so-called “eldest daughter syndrome,” the socio-cultural phenomenon discussed online that refers to the childcare and other domestic labor that first-born females often take on, consciously or unconsciously, to help with the traditional parental or adult responsibilities required to run a household. The online discussions focus on oldest daughters feeling an overwhelming sense of responsibility for their family’s well-being.

Researchers recruited participants for the study from two obstetric clinics in Southern California during routine first trimester prenatal care visits. The women were 30 years old on average, all 18 or older, and experiencing singleton pregnancies. For about half of them, this was their first pregnancy. All were English-speaking, 45% were white/non-Latina and 30% were Latina. All were nonsmoking and not using steroid medications, tobacco, alcohol or other recreational drugs during pregnancy. Of the children born to these mothers, 48% were female and 52% were male.

Women’s stress, depression and anxiety levels were measured at 15-, 19-, 25-, 31- and 37-weeks’ gestation to create a prenatal psychological distress composite score. They were also assessed at two to three months postpartum to assign a postnatal distress composite score. The depression assessment asked respondents to rate the truth of statements such as “I felt lonely.” An example of an anxiety question was how often they felt particular symptoms, such as “jittery.”

At ages 8–10, 11–12 and 13–16, children’s biomarkers of adrenal and gonadal puberty were separately measured, including body hair, skin changes, growth in height or growth spurts, breast development and the onset of menstruation (in females), voice changes and facial hair growth (in males). Hormone levels that are indicators of adrenal and gonadal puberty were measured through saliva samples at all assessment stages.

The study also measured childhood adversity to account for other factors known to correlate to early maturation or signs of puberty in children and adolescents. These included the death of a parent or parental separation before age 5, the absence of the father and low income-to-needs ratios experienced at ages 7–9.

This research adds to the body of knowledge in our field showing the significant and lifelong impacts to women and their offspring when it comes to prenatal emotional, environmental and other factors. This is important as we continue to come up with practical and policy solutions that contribute to greater access to healthcare and the general wellbeing of pregnant mothers.”

Molly Fox, UCLA anthropologist

Source:

University of California – Los Angeles

News Related

OTHER NEWS

FA confident that Man Utd starlet will pick England over Ghana

Kobbie Mainoo made his first start for Man Utd at Everton (Photo: Getty) The Football Association are reportedly confident that Manchester United starlet Kobbie Mainoo will choose to represent England ... Read more »

World Darts Championship draw throws up tricky tests for big names

Michael Smith will begin the defence of his world title on the opening night (Picture: Getty Images) The 2024 World Darts Championship is less than three weeks away and the ... Read more »

Pioneering flight to use repurposed cooking oil to cross Atlantic

For the first time a long haul commercial aircraft is flying across the Atlantic using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). A long haul commercial flight is flying to the US ... Read more »

King meets world business and finance figures at Buckingham Palace

The King has met business and finance leaders from across the world at a Buckingham Palace reception to mark the conclusion of the UK’s Global Investment Summit. Charles was introduced ... Read more »

What Lou Holtz thinks of Ohio State's loss to Michigan: 'They aren't real happy'

After Ohio State’s 30-24 loss to Michigan Saturday, many college football fans were wondering where Lou Holtz was. In his postgame interview after the Buckeyes beat Notre Dame 17-14 in ... Read more »

Darius Slay wouldn't have minded being penalized on controversial no-call

Darius Slay wouldn’t have minded being penalized on controversial no-call No matter which team you were rooting for on Sunday, we can all agree that the officiating job performed by ... Read more »

Mac Jones discusses Patriots future after latest benching

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) Quarterback Mac Jones remains committed to finding success with the New England Patriots even though his future is up in the air following ... Read more »
Top List in the World