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Durham University

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Boothroyd, L.G., Craig, P.S., Crossman, R.J. & Perrett, D.I. (2013). Father absence and age at first birth in a western sample. American Journal of Human Biology 25(3): 366–369.

Author(s) from Durham


Although a large literature has shown links between “father absence” during early childhood, and earlier puberty and sexual behavior in girls in Western populations, there are only a few studies which have looked at timing of reproduction, and only one of these fully incorporated childless respondents to investigate whether father absence is associated with increased hazard of becoming a parent at one time point (early) more than another. Here we sought to clarify exactly when, if at all, father absence increased the likelihood of first birth in a Western sample.

An online sample of 954 women reported on their childhood living circumstances, their age of menarche, first coitus, first pregnancy, and first birth.

Cox regression and Kaplan–Meier plots showed an increased risk of becoming a parent for father absent women in their 20s, but no overall greater likelihood of parenthood.

These data support the suggestion that father absence is associated with an acceleration of reproductive behavior in Western samples, rather than a simple increase in likelihood of reproduction.