Researchers at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center said that the finding suggests that a history of sexual abuse may increase the risk of early menstrual periods -- before age 12.
The study, published online in the American Journal of Public Health, examined the prevalence of sexual and physical abuse in childhood among more than 35,000 African-American women aged 21-69 years participating in the Black Women's Health Study.
The researchers found that a high proportion of participants reported a history of childhood abuse: 43 percent reported physical abuse and 18 percent reported sexual abuse.
Women who reported a higher frequency of childhood sexual abuse had a higher likelihood of early periods: a 26 percent increased risk of early periods for up to three incidents of sexual abuse and a 34 percent increased risk of early periods for four or more incidents, compared with women reporting no childhood abuse, the study said.
Celebrity Couples of 2014 [PHOTOS]