Girls hitting puberty younger

2010-08-10 09:20

Washington - More US girls are starting puberty younger, with large percentages developing breasts and pubic hair as early as seven, according to a study released on Monday in the American journal Paediatrics.

Nearly a quarter of black girls (23.4%), 14.9% of Hispanic girls and 10.4% of white girls develop breasts by the age of seven, the study of 1 239 girls in Harlem, Cincinnati and the San Francisco area found.

Twenty percent of seven-year-old black girls had pubic hair, as did around 6.5% of white and Hispanic girls, the study found.

The alarming figures are a big jump compared to a similar study published in 1997. Back then, only 5% of seven-year-old white girls and around 15% of black girls of the same age were developing breasts.

Negative impacts associated with early puberty in girls include increased risk of breast or endometrial cancer later in life, and psychological troubles ranging from low self-esteem and eating problems to depression and suicide.

Sexually active

Just what causes puberty to start is not fully understood, and the researchers plan to pool data collected for the study to try to determine if there are associations between puberty onset and factors such as diet or exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

The study, led by Frank Biro of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital's adolescent medicine division, also said girls who hit puberty young are "more likely to be influenced by deviant peers" and become sexually active earlier.

The study found that at age eight, more than four in 10 black girls (42.9%) were developing breasts and nearly a third had pubic hair.

Nearly 31% of Hispanic girls and 18% of white girls were developing breasts at the age of eight, and 19% and 10% respectively had pubic hair.

  • Anon - 2010-08-10 09:26

    Before someone starts screaming it's all GM food to blame let's clear something up:
    they hit puberty earlier because, well there's no way say this nicely: They have more fat on them than say, 20 to 30 years before
    also pretty much everything we consume has growth hormone, so yeah, it's not something new.

  • gummy bear - 2010-08-10 10:13

    @ Anon
    you took the words out of my mouth.
    Also look a obesity in the UK. 1 in 3 is obese.

  • Fred - 2010-08-10 11:03

    Are these girls actually growing breasts or just developing another fatty deposit? "Ooooh, my stomach is so full I can't possibly eat another, wait a minute, I still have a little space in my chest - I think I will finish my second Big Mac after all".

  • Bob's Lawn Service - 2010-08-10 11:09

    Growth hormones in food and milk have also been linked to this in more than one study.

  • Gustredamus - 2010-08-10 12:41

    How come there is a difference in population groups, I thought we are all alike?

  • Edwin - 2010-08-10 13:52

    Haha, thank you guys. You just made my day, very funny comments.

  • Zaga - 2010-08-10 14:12

    Puberty starts as far as I know with the onset of 'periods' - is this also the case that the periods are starting earlier or is it only the external features like breast development and pubic hair growth?

  • @Anon - 2010-08-10 14:14

    If growth hormones in common foods like chicken and milk are a cause, data for vegetarians might look different. Who's doing that study?

  • @Zaga - 2010-08-10 18:10

    Puberty begins usually with sparse, fine genital hair in both sexes and things like breast buds, armpit hair and in boys voice changes. Onset of what are often sporadic menses typically arrive later than these signs. The lesson to be learnt from this (and this research) by parents/ caregivers and the fact of increasingly earlier onset of puberty is to be vigilent about preparative education for those emerging into puberty and making adequate provision to cater for responsible adult-driven related programmes. The challenge, however, will be to find age-and developmentally appropriate ways to inform a nine-year old of managing her periods and that is not going to be easy for anyone. Reaching towards and completing physical maturity is not the same as intellectual, emotional or social maturity. For what it's worth it's high time alleged growth hormones in our drinking came under scrutiny because they may be robbing children of their childhood. I cannot imagine a nine or ten year-old having to use tampons, but it looks like we had better get used to it and lots more, for example like making condoms for wee willies in mid-primary school.

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