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On the developmental significance of female pubertal timing
Örebro University, Department of Behavioural, Social and Legal Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7456-2397
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Puberty is the process of becoming sexually mature and it has fundamental somatic and psychosocial implications. The focus of this dissertation was the short and long term developmental significance, concerning both soma et psyche, of female pubertal timing. Four studies were designed to accomplish these aims. Six samples of different ages from different countries and from different time points, comprising several thousand females some of which were followed longitudinally, were used. Age at menarche was used as the primary measure of pubertal maturation. The first main aim of this dissertation was to explore the mechanisms that might explain the well-established link between female pubertal timing and problem behavior, and to identify contextual conditions at which associations are stronger or weaker. Existing explanations are unsatisfactory and little is known about conditions that might affect the strength of the associations.

In Paper I, we tested and confirmed a peer socialization hypothesis as a satisfactory explanation for the link between early puberty and problematic adjustment. In short, this hypothesis posits that early developing girls associate with older peers and boyfriends because they feel more mature than their same age peers, and through these peers and boyfriends the early developed girls are channeled into more socially advanced behaviors, including normbreaking. This should be particularly true in contexts where heterosexual relationships are sanctioned and where there is an abundance of deviant youth. In Paper II, I used a biopsychosocial approach and studied pubertal timing along with self-perceptions of maturity and early romantic relationships. The findings revealed that early puberty had very different implications depending on the psychological and social contexts in which it was embedded. For instance, when early puberty was coupled with feeling mature and having early romantic relationships, it was associated with adjustment problems. When early puberty was coupled with neither, it was not linked to particularly high levels of problem behavior.

In stark contrast to the vast literature on the role of female pubertal timing in adolescence, the literature on long-term implications is remarkably limited. For this reason, the second main aim of this dissertation was to study the adult implications of female pubertal timing. In Papers III and IV, we examined long term implications of pubertal timing, particularly as it relates to somatic development. The findings suggested that pubertal timing does have future implications for women’s body perception and composition, with early developing females having higher body mass indexes in adulthood, but only under certain circumstances. The findings of this dissertation help further understanding of the soma et psyche implications of female pubertal timing. They indicate that pubertal timing has concurrent and future implications. It seems, however, that timing is not everything. The developmental significance of female pubertal timing appears to be very different under different contextual conditions. Thus, it is only when girls’ psychological and social contexts are considered that fruitful predictions can be made. As such, the findings have important implications for prevention, policy, and practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitet , 2008. , 106 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Psychology, ISSN 1651-1328 ; 14
Keyword [en]
female, puberty, pubertal timing, development, adjustment, longitudinal, sexuality, peer relations, weight status, mechanisms, conditions
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2015ISBN: 978-91-7668-590-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-2015DiVA: diva2:135770
Public defence
2008-04-28, HSP2, Prismahuset, Fakultetsgatan 1, 701 82 Örebro, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2008-03-24 Created: 2008-03-24 Last updated: 2016-08-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Female pubertal timing and problem behavior: explaining the mechanism at different levels of social contexts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Female pubertal timing and problem behavior: explaining the mechanism at different levels of social contexts
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2952 (URN)
Available from: 2008-03-24 Created: 2008-03-24 Last updated: 2016-12-12Bibliographically approved
2. Adolescent and adult implications of girls' pubertal timing: what roles do perceived maturity and early sexuality play?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Adolescent and adult implications of girls' pubertal timing: what roles do perceived maturity and early sexuality play?
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-15481 (URN)
Available from: 2011-05-05 Created: 2011-05-05 Last updated: 2016-12-12Bibliographically approved
3. Very long-term follow-up of girls with early and late menarche
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Very long-term follow-up of girls with early and late menarche
2005 (English)In: Abnormalities in puberty: scientific and clinical advances / [ed] H. A. Delemarre-van de Waal, Basel: Karger , 2005, 126-136 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Short- and long-term psychosocial effects of precocious or early normal puberty are probably more important for individuals than the moderate losses in final height they experience. Despite this, pediatric endocrinologists have focused much more on final height than psychosocial outcomes. As a surrogate for long-term follow-up studies of girls with precocious puberty, we have reviewed the results of a very long-term study of physical and psychosocial development of girls with normal early puberty. Results revealed that at age 15-16, girls with menarche before age 11 (early) were more norm-breaking, including being delinquents. In addition, they had earlier advanced sexual experiences. By adult age, there were no differences in psychosocial adjustment between the early- and late-developed women. Thus, the effects of early pubertal timing for psychosocial problems seem to be adolescent-limited. At ages 27 and 43, early-developed women had lower academic education. Regarding somatic development, at age 43, women with early menarche were shorter and heavier, had worse physical fitness and dieted more frequently compared to other women. There was no difference in quality of life. In searching for reasons for the antisocial behaviors in adolescence and the lower educational levels among early developers, early heterosexual relations seem to be the most crucial.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Basel: Karger, 2005
Series
Endocrine development, ISSN 1421-7082 ; 8
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2954 (URN)978-3-8055-7867-7 (ISBN)
Available from: 2008-03-24 Created: 2008-03-24 Last updated: 2016-12-12Bibliographically approved
4. Does appetite affect the association between female pubertal timing and adult weight status?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Does appetite affect the association between female pubertal timing and adult weight status?
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2955 (URN)
Available from: 2008-03-24 Created: 2008-03-24 Last updated: 2016-12-12Bibliographically approved

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