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Behavior Problems and Timing of Menarche: A Developmental Longitudinal Biometrical Analysis Using the NLSY-Children Data

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Abstract

A powerful longitudinal data source, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Children data, allows measurement of behavior problems (BP) within a developmental perspective linking them to menarcheal timing (MT). In a preliminary analysis, we evaluate the bivariate relationships between BP measured at different developmental periods and the timing of menarche. Correlations were not consistent with any correlational/causal relationship between BP and MT. In the major part of our study, MT was used to moderate the developmental trajectory of BP, within a genetically-informed design. Girls reaching menarche early had behavior problem variance accounted for by the shared environment; those reaching menarche with average/late timing had behavior problem differences accounted for by genetic variance. Our findings match previous empirical results in important ways, and also extend those results. A theoretical interpretation is offered in relation to a theory linking genetic/shared environmental variance to flexibility and choices available within the family in relation to BP.

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Notes

  1. In 2006, direct indicators of sibling relatedness were included within both the NLSY79 and NLSYC surveys. Our research team recently completed updating and released both sets of kinship links using these explicit indicators in combination with previous links defined by implicit processes as described within the current paper. Public release of these new kinship links occurred in November, 2013. Although the new links improve on the 2006 links that are used in the current paper, the older links have been used effectively in past research, and validity checks show that the two sets of links function in very similar ways. There are a number of indicators of the quality of the 2006 links, and reasons to believe that they are at least as good, and in some ways superior, to direct ascertainment of sibling relatedness. First, concurrent validity has been established in relation to a number of different phenotypes, in which NLSYC results are very similar to those obtained using other datasets with “direct” ascertainment (see Rodgers et al. 2008a, b, for a summary of matching studies that establishes this type of validity). Second, information provided by mothers about biological fathers is in several senses a more logically direct indicator of sibling relatedness than asking the siblings for their own perceived relatedness. Issues of honesty aside, the mother potentially knows details about her children’s relatedness of which the child might not even be aware. Further, the mother is more likely to understand the concept of biological relatedness than young children. Finally, the mother is quite likely to be more aware of location information about the biological father—which is used to distinguish some half siblings in the 2006 NLSYC linking algorithm—than are the children. Comparison between our 2006 implicit kinship links and newer explicit links among the female–female pairs have identified well over 90 % agreement. The potential value of the new links is substantial in resolving the “ambiguous sibling” category, and in increasing the sample sizes, but there is very little disagreement among the more recent direct indicators and the large number of earlier links that were ascertained by the linking algorithm. In future research efforts, we recommend use of the most recently updated kinship links, which can be obtained by e-mailing the first author or online at: cran.r-project.org/web/packages/NlsyLinks/.

  2. The construction involved the following set of features and steps. A common set of items was used in 1994, 1996, and 1998; an overlapping but smaller item subset was used in 2000; and in 2002 and 2004, several items were added back in, but two of them—“damaged property” and “skipped school”—used slightly different wording that changed the baseline response. We identified seven items that were approximately common across the five different survey dates 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002, and 2004 (the 2000 survey was not used, because there were not enough items). Those seven items asked respondents if they had ever hurt someone, lied to parents, damaged/destroyed property, stolen something from a store, skipped a day of school without an excuse, brought a parent to school because of doing something wrong, and run away from home. One other shift between the two time periods occurred; in the later time period, instead of asking “have you ever …” about each item, a four-item ordinal scale was provided: 1=never; 2=once; 3=twice; 4=more than twice, which we recoded into a binary yes/no response matching the response format from the earlier time period.

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Rodgers, J.L., Van Hulle, C., D’Onofrio, B. et al. Behavior Problems and Timing of Menarche: A Developmental Longitudinal Biometrical Analysis Using the NLSY-Children Data. Behav Genet 45, 51–70 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-014-9676-4

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