In order to determine whether aspects of pubertal maturation vary across race/ethnicity, this study examined two components of pubertal maturation (onset of Menarche and perceptions of pubertal timing) in a multi-ethnic multi-socioeconomic sample of urban adolescent girls (n = 866).
As expected patterns of menarcheal onset by cohort age indicated that few 9-year-olds, almost half of the 12-year-olds, and nearly all of the 15-year-olds had become menarcheal. Results of baseline comparisons between Latina and White girls indicated that Latinas reached menarche an average of 4 months earlier than Whites. After socioeconomic indicators were controlled, however, the difference in menarcheal age became insignificant. To the extent that socioeconomic status (SES) acts as a proxy for environmental stress, these findings imply that holding constant the level of environmental stress significantly diminishes the variation in menarcheal onset between these two racial/ethnic groups. Unadjusted comparisons in menarcheal age between African-American and Latina girls showed that Latina girls reached menarche approximately 3 months earlier than their African-American peers, even after holding constant the level of environmental stress. The variation in menarcheal onset persisted between these two racial/ethnic groups. In the baseline comparisons, African-Americans reached menarcheal age approximately 1 month earlier than White, which was insignificant. Girls across the three racial/ethnic groups reported similar perceptions of maturational timing. Findings suggest that SES is important in examinations of menarcheal age, particularly between Latinas and Whites. When comparing girls across different minority populations, SES factors seemed to have a minimal role, but other environmental factors (e.g., racial discrimination) might be considered in subsequent research. Plans for future investigations include using a more dynamic longitudinal analysis, so as to better understand the nature of pubertal timing within and across race/ethnicity. 3 tables and 54 references