Girls Reaching Puberty By Age Seven, Study Shows

August 9, 2010

Photo credit Stephane Vervalle

(ChattahBox) – A new study has shown that girls are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages, the average age seeming to be around seven years old, an alarming trend which has researchers concerned about the sudden leap in maturation, and the consequences.

In the last decade, the usual development of maturation signs such as breast tissue has reduced from 10 – 11-years-old to 7 – 8-years-old. This is a phenomenon seem predominantly in Black at 23%, Hispanics at 15%, and Whites at 13% by age seven, then 50% Blacks, 25% Hispanics and 18% Whites by the age of eight. There was no data on those of Asian decent.

The study was conducted by University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Kaiser Permanente. The researchers followed the development of 1,239 young girls.

While the cause is unknown, the growing obesity level is considered one likely factor, as fat cells generate hormones, which trigger puberty when a certain fat percentage is reached. There may also be something in food, plastics, and various chemicals that could be having an affect on the endocrine system.

“There should be some sort of rethinking about chronological age versus pubertal age with public-health issues,” Penn State Professor Elizabeth Susman told the Wall Street Journal.

Some concern over the way that girls may be treated due to earlier development has been raised. Body image is a major problem with young girls, especially those who are teased for greater development by peers, or gain attention they are not prepared for. Talking about sex at an earlier age may also be necessary, as younger maturation may change the issues young girls face from older peers.

Studies have also shown a greater risk of breast cancer for those who have developed early, due to estrogen being more prevalent in the body for a longer period of time. However, the increase is small, and more research must be done.

The study has been published in health journal Pediatrics.


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