Father Absence, Age at Menarche, and Sexual Behaviors in Women: Evaluating the Genetic Confounding Hypothesis Using the Androgen Receptor Gene

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Abstract

Life history theory posits father absence and associated stressors are key for regulating the development of reproductive phenotypes. The causal status of father absence has been questioned, however, because genetic confounding can account for this association. The purpose of the current study was to replicate and extend prior work that evaluated the androgen receptor gene’s (AR) contribution to the interrelations between father absence and daughters’ age at menarche (AAM) and sexual behaviors by evaluating the GGC, as well as the better characterized CAG polymorphisms. Using structural models on a sample of 269 Caucasian women, we found no evidence to support the genetic confounding hypothesis, though a main effect of CAG variation on earlier AAM was detected independent of father absence. In addition, we tested the hypothesis that associations between father absence and daughter’s sexual behaviors would be mediated by AAM and that indirect effects of father absence would be conditioned by AR variation. Results showed AR variation moderated the association between father absence and AAM and the indirect effects of father absence on daughter’s sexual behaviors, most strongly by the CAG repeat. Implications of these results are discussed in terms of genetic contributions to life history phenotypes and importance of examining gene–environment transactions.

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