• Journal Article

Outcomes of Early Pubertal Timing in Young Women: A Prospective Population-Based Study


Copeland, W., Shanahan, L., Miller, S., Costello, E. J., & Angold, A. (2010). Outcomes of Early Pubertal Timing in Young Women: A Prospective Population-Based Study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(10), 1218-1225.


Objective: Early pubertal timing in girls is associated with psychosocial problems throughout adolescence, but it is unclear whether these problems persist into young adulthood. The authors analyzed outcomes in adolescence and young adulthood in girls in a longitudinal study. Method: The data for this study were from the prospective population-based Great Smoky Mountains Study (N = 1,420), which initially recruited children at ages 9, 11, and 13 and followed them into young adulthood. Pubertal timing was defined on the basis of self-reported Tanner stage and age at menarche. Outcome measures included functioning related to crime, substance use, school/peer problems, family relationships, sexual behavior, and mental health in adolescence (ages 13 to 16) as well as crime, substance use, education/socioeconomic status, sexual behavior, and mental health in young adulthood (ages 19 and 21). Results: In adolescence, early-maturing girls displayed higher levels of self-reported criminality, substance use problems, social isolation, early sexual behavior, and psychiatric problems. By young adulthood, most of these differences had attenuated. Functioning for early maturers improved in some areas; in others, on-time and late maturers had caught up with their early-maturing peers. Nevertheless, early-maturing girls, particularly those with a history of adolescent conduct disorder, were more likely to be depressed in young adulthood compared to their counterparts. Early maturers were also more likely to have had many sexual partners. Conclusions: The effects of early pubertal timing on adolescent psychosocial problems were wide ranging but diminished by young adulthood for all but a small group