Age at menarche and adolescent alcohol use

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Research has shown that early maturation is
related to problematic alcohol use, yet the differential
effect of early pubertal timing (i.e., younger age at menarche)
on the onset of alcohol use and subsequent level of
alcohol use has rarely been examined. This distinction is
relevant, as younger age at menarche can have differential
effects on these outcomes, which in turn can have longlasting
effects. Therefore, the present study examined the
relationship between age at menarche and adolescent
alcohol use among girls, hereby distinguishing between
onset and level of alcohol use. In addition, the moderating
effects of alcohol-specific rules, child disclosure and class
gender composition were examined. Participants were 430
girls from a Dutch four-wave survey, with a mean age of
12.17 years (SD = 0.50) at the beginning of the study.
Results showed that the probability of onset of alcohol use
was increased by younger age at menarche, but only when
girls were younger than 15. Moderation analyses showed
that younger age at menarche increased the risk of alcohol
onset only in low risk girls (with high levels of alcoholspecific
rules and in classes with a high percentage of
girls). Once adolescent girls started drinking alcohol,
younger age at menarche was associated positively with
alcohol consumption only for girls in classes with a moderate
to high percentage of girls. These findings confirm
that younger age at menarche is a risk factor for the onset
of alcohol use, but strongly suggest that this effect is
strongest for girls having restrictive alcohol-specific rules
and in classes with a high percentage of girls. Possibly, in
the absence of social factors that ‘‘push’’ to alcohol use,
biological factors (like age at menarche) become more
important. Another possibility is that adolescent girls start
drinking alcohol to oppose their parents if they set too strict
alcohol-specific rules.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1345
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Age at menarche
  • Adolescent alcohol use
  • Alcohol-specific rules
  • Child disclosure
  • Class gender composition


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