Are Girls Are Entering Puberty Earlier?
Should parents be alarmed if their daughter goes through physical changes before 9?
They haven't even learned their multiplication tables yet, but across America, 7 and 8-year-old girls have been developing breasts and sprouting pubic hair. This trend, however, should not be cause for concern.
At the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, experts described that early onset puberty is the new "normal." Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Paul Kaplowitz, who spoke at the conference, explained that these early physical changes are quite common among American girls.
"I spend a lot of time reassuring parents -- usually, this does not signal a rapid progression into full puberty," said Kaplowitz.
As CNN reports, even though girls are developing earlier, the age of their first period has only shifted slightly in the past 40 decades, from 12.75-years-old in 1970 to 12.5 today.
Why is early onset puberty happening?
Puberty usually occurs in girls between the ages of 10 and 14 and is considered "precocious" when breast enlargement is accompanied by a growth spurt before age 8. (In case you were wondering, this early puberty trend is also happening in boys.)
African-American and Hispanic girls tend to reach puberty earlier than their white counterparts. Globally, early puberty can be influenced by economic conditions to climate to genes, CNN reports. Kaplowitz said that the issue comes hand-in-hand with the obesity epidemic, citing his 2001 study that linked the body fat of 6-9-year-old girls to early puberty.
Here are a few more theories (via Huffington Post):
- Increased animal protein intake. Higher total protein, animal protein, and meat intake in children age 3-7 have been associated with earlier menarche (first period) in multiple studies. In contrast, higher vegetable protein intake at age 5-6 is associated with later menarche.
- Our modern diet rich in processed foods, dairy, processed meats and fast food has been disruptive to normal development and aging. High dairy consumption is associated with earlier than average menarche, as well as soft drink consumption.
- Children's bodies are more sensitive to synthetic hormones and chemicals that alter the action of natural hormones.
Mothers and fathers need not be concerned. Dr. Kaplowitz stressed that early onset puberty simply means "having a sooner-than-expected conversation" of a process that is a "normal part of life."
Are you worried by the trend of early onset puberty?