Childhood Abuse and Age at Menarche



      Physical and sexual abuse are prevalent social hazards. We sought to examine the association between childhood physical and sexual abuse and age at menarche.


      Among 68,505 participants enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II, we investigated the association between childhood physical abuse and sexual abuse and menarche before age 11 years (early) or after age 15 years (late) using multivariate logistic regression analysis, mutually adjusting for both types of abuse.


      Fifty-seven percent of respondents reported some form of physical or sexual abuse in childhood. We found a positive dose–response association between severity of sexual abuse in childhood and risk for early menarche. Compared with women who reported no childhood sexual abuse, the adjusted odds ratio (AOR) for early menarche in women who reported childhood sexual abuse was 1.20 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.10, 1.37) for sexual touching and 1.49 (95% CI: 1.34, 1.66) for forced sexual activity. Severe physical abuse predicted early menarche (AOR = 1.22, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.37). Childhood physical abuse had a dose–response association with late age at menarche: AOR 1.17 (95% CI: 1.04, 1.32) for mild, 1.20 (95% CI: 1.08, 1.33) for moderate, and 1.50 (95% CI: 1.27, 1.77) for severe physical abuse. Sexual abuse was not associated with late menarche.


      Childhood abuse was prevalent in this large cohort of U.S. women. Severity of childhood sexual abuse was associated with risk for early onset of menarche, and physical abuse was associated with both early and late onset of menarche.


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