Early-Life Conditions and Age at First Pregnancy in British Women
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Medical Sciences
There is growing evidence that the reproductive schedules of female mammals can be affected by conditions experienced during early development, with low parental investment leading to accelerated life-history strategies in the offspring. In humans, the relationships between early-life conditions and timing of puberty are well studied, but much less attention has been paid to reproductive behaviour. Here, we investigate associations between early-life conditions and age at first pregnancy (AFP) in a large, longitudinally studied cohort of British women (n = 4553). Low birthweight for gestational age, short duration of breastfeeding, separation from mother in childhood, frequent family residential moves and lack of paternal involvement are all independently associated with earlier first pregnancy. Apart from that of birthweight, the effects are robust to adjustment for family socioeconomic position (SEP) and the cohort member's mother's age at her birth. The association between childhood SEP and AFP is partially mediated by early-life conditions, and the association between early-life conditions and AFP is partially mediated by emotional and behavioural problems in childhood. The overall relationship between early-life adversities and AFP appears to be approximately additive.