Human Nature

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 321–339 | Cite as

Intergenerational context discontinuity affects the onset of puberty

A comparison of parent-child dyads in West and East Germany
  • Athanasios ChasiotisEmail author
  • David Scheffer
  • Ramona Restemeier
  • Heidi Keller


The assumption that the onset of puberty is a context-sensitive marker of a reproductive strategy is tested by comparing parental and filial childhood context and somatic development in West and East Germany. Sixty-eight mother-daughter dyads and 35 father-son dyads were taken from two samples of families from Osnabrück in West Germany and Halle in East Germany. According to the observed context discontinuity between the generations in the male dyads, linear regression models show that no indicator of male sexual maturation was influenced significantly by the somatic development of the father. Instead of an inherited timing of maturation, antecedent distal factors like socioeconomic childhood context variables and critical life events lead to an acceleration of male sexual maturation. Finally we test the effect of two different conditions of childhood context continuity on daughter’s age at menarche with maternal age at menarche controlled. Linear regression models show that mother’s age at menarche predicts daughter’s age at menarche only under the condition of contextual continuity between generations, which was the case in the West German sample only. In East Germany, where mother’s age at menarche had no significant effect, the amount of variance explained by childhood context variables was almost the same. These results indicate the context sensitivity of somatic development which seems to follow an evolutionary rationale.

Key words

Childhood context Evolutionary psychology Germany Intergenerational continuity Menarche Onset of puberty Reproductive strategy Spermarche 


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Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Athanasios Chasiotis
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Scheffer
    • 1
  • Ramona Restemeier
    • 1
  • Heidi Keller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany

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