Age at menarche in Peninsular Malaysia: time trends, ethnic differentials, and association with ages at marriage and at first birth

by Tan Boon Ann, Ramli Othman, William Butz, Julie DaVanzo

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This paper reports the associations between the age at menarche of Malaysian girls and several family-level factors, using respondent-reported recall data from the 1976-1977 Malaysian Family Life Survey. These data are the first to document trends in age at menarche in Malaysia, before and during the period of rapid socioeconomic development. Using multiple regression technique, it was shown that age at menarche is a significant correlate of ages at first marriage and first birth and that inferences about the associations between socioeconomic correlates and age at marriage and at first birth can be biased if age at menarche is not controlled. Some important implications emerged: The average age at menarche declined between 1925 and 1960 and further declines can be expected. The falling ages at menarche might justify the introduction of family life education at earlier ages. This study illustrates further that long-term quality recall data can be useful for documenting average trends and differentials.

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