Boys with absent fathers become fathers themselves at a young age

7 September 2011

If a boy’s father is absent when he’s a child, he is more likely to become a father himself at a young age, a new study suggests.

The research from the London School of Economics is based on data from the National Child Development Study, which is following the lives of people born in one week of 1958. Researchers found that having an absent father is also associated with the age at which boys reach puberty. “Our research suggests that it’s not just the absence of a father that can affect when a boy experiences puberty and becomes a father, but also the timing of that absence,” says Paula Sheppard, one of the study’s authors.

Boys whose fathers were absent between the ages of seven and 16 were four to five per cent more likely to become fathers themselves by age 23 than boys in two-parent homes. Boys’ voices broke later if their fathers were absent between the ages of 11 and 16. These associations remained even when adjusting for other factors in a stressed childhood environment.

The full article, ‘Father absence predicts age at sexual maturity and reproductive timing in British men’, by Paula Sheppard and Rebecca Sear, was published in the September 2011 issue of Biology Letters (note: subscription required for online access).

Media coverage of the study:

Boys with absent fathers likely to have children earlier’ – The Daily Telegraph

Fatherless boys become dads earlier: study’ – The Sydney Morning Herald

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