Genetic Confounding of the Relationship between Father Absence and Age at Menarche

Nicole Barbaro, Brian Boutwell, JC Barnes and Todd Shackelford:

Research in evolutionary psychology, and life history theory in particular, has yielded important insights into the de- velopmental processes that underpin variation in growth, psychological functioning, and behavioral outcomes across individuals. Yet, there are methodological concerns that limit the ability to draw causal inferences about human de- velopment and psychological functioning within a life history framework. The current study used a simulation-based modeling approach to estimate the degree of genetic confounding in tests of a well-researched life history hypoth- esis: that father absence (X) is associated with earlier age at menarche (Y). The results demonstrate that the genetic correlation between X and Y can confound the phenotypic association between the two variables, even if the genetic correlation is small—suggesting that failure to control for the genetic correlation between X and Y could produce a spurious phenotypic correlation. We discuss the implications of these results for research on human life history, and highlight the utility of incorporating genetically sensitive tests into future life history research.
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