Original article:

Early menarche as an alternative reproductive tactic in human females: An evolutionary approach to reproductive health issues

Evolutionary Psychology 10(5): 830-841 Meghan T. Gillette, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA, meghang@iastate.eduKaila E. Folinsbee, Department of Anthropology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA


The age at which a female reaches sexual maturity is critical in determining her future reproductive health and success. Thus, a worldwide decline in menarcheal age (timing of first menstrual period) may have serious long-term consequences. Early menarcheal timing (first menstrual period before age 12) can have a negative effect on fecundity, as well as the quality and quantity of offspring, and may consequently influence population growth or decline. In this paper, we apply an evolutionary framework to modern human health, and assess both proximate and ultimate consequences of declining menarcheal age. Examination of human reproductive health within an evolutionary framework is innovative and essential, because it illuminates the ultimate consequences of a declining age of menarche and facilitates new ways of thinking about the long-term and intergenerational transmission of health and disease; thus, an evolutionary framework lends itself to innovative public health and policy programs. In this paper, we examine whether or not early menarche is an alternative reproductive tactic that modern human females employ in response to a stressful environment, and whether or not early menarche is ultimately beneficial.


alternative reproductive tactic, development, fitness, health, maturation, menarche, puberty, reproduction

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Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)

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