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Where's Poppa? Absent dads linked to early sex by daughters

Teenage girls in the United States and New Zealand show a particularly strong tendency to engage in sexual activity and to get pregnant if they grew up in families without a father present, a new long-term study finds.

"These findings may support social policies that encourage fathers to form and remain in families with their children, unless the marriage is highly [conflicted] or violent," conclude psychologist Bruce J. Ellis of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and his coworkers in the May/June Child Development.

Prior studies have shown early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy among girls who grow up from infancy without a father. However, scientists have generally assumed that precocious sexuality results from a mix of adverse influences, including a father's absence, divorce, poverty, and the lack of parental guidance.

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