Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Peggy S. Keller


The timing of pubertal development has important mental and physical health consequences. Individuals who enter puberty off-time are at greater risk for psychological disorders, social difficulties, and physical morbidity. One variable associated with early pubertal development is marital conflict. Life History Theory proposes that marital conflict signals an unreliable environment and promotes advanced pubertal timing to enhance reproductive fitness. Such calibrations allow individuals to unconsciously invest more resources in reproduction, following a quantity over quality approach. Despite research supporting the role of marital conflict in early-onset puberty, research has struggled to find a mechanism for this relationship. The current study examined two possible mediators: emotional insecurity and cortisol levels in a sample of children aged 6-12 years from 2-parent families. Neither variable was supported as a mediator of this relationship. However, parental depression significantly predicted pubertal development for girls. Findings regarding the role of parental depression in the timing of girl’s puberty support life history theory.