December 20, 2018

Absent biological father does not predict advanced pubertal development

Posted December 20, 2018

Research has determined that adolescents who experience puberty earlier than their peers have a higher risk of delinquency, early sexual activity, and other negative health outcomes. Therefore, it is important to understand what factors might influence the timing of puberty. A prevailing theory postulated that having an absent biological father triggers early pubertal development. Subsequently, this theory has been supported to varying degrees by other studies.

A study by TenEyck, El Sayed, and Barnes tests this proposed causal relationship utilizing Add Health data. Add Health consists of nationally representative data, including biological development questions that were asked while respondents were in Grades 7 through 12, when females are still developing. Add Health also includes variables about respondents’ physical development relative to their peers. These additional variables were used by TenEyck et al. to develop a more complete measure of biological maturity than what previous studies had done.

The study found that there was no relationship between having an absent biological father and early pubertal development, even after accounting for theory-based confounders. The contrasting results from this study, compared to others, requires further research. The authors hypothesize a few factors that may be influencing the absent father/puberty relationship, including the lack of individual level genetics in previous literature. You can view the study here to learn more.


Michael F. TenEyck, University of Texas – Arlington

Sarah A. El Sayed, University of Texas – Arlington

J.C. Barnes, University of Cincinnati

TenEyck, M. F., El Sayed, S. A., & Barnes, J. C. (2018). The effect of absent biological father on female biological maturity: Results from a nationally representative sample of adolescents. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 1-16.