Boys are Hitting Puberty Earlier: What Does This Mean for Parents?
7 months ago
Don't be afraid to have the "talk" with your sons sooner rather than later
Though studies from recent years have concluded that today's girls are entering puberty at earlier ages than generations past, a new health report now reveals that boys too are experiencing physical maturation at younger ages than their predecessors.
The study, "Secondary Sexual Characteristics in Boys," published online by the journal Pediatrics, reported that "genital and pubic hair growth, and early testicular volumes [occurred] 6 months to 2 years earlier than in past studies, depending on the characteristic and race/ethnicity."
But while news that our girls are entering the sexual arena earlier is often reported—and read—with a tinge of fear, Nancy L. Brown, Ph.D. and education projects manager at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, says the same concern need not be applied to boys.
"Girls who start puberty earlier tend to be at higher risk for getting involved with the wrong crowd, alcohol, drugs and sex," said Brown. "It's not a guarantee, but the world doesn't know how to treat a girl who looks 14 and is really 9. The opposite is true for early maturing boys. They tend to be taller, stronger, more athletic. Socially, it puts them at the top of the pecking order; they get to be the alpha dog earlier. For girls, developing early makes them awkward—she's the kid in fourth grade with boobs. It's not the same social response."
Earlier this year, "Good Morning America" reported that by age 7, 23 percent of African-American girls had begun developing breasts; comparatively, 10 percent of Caucasian girls had done the same. The new study, which included data from 4,131 boys aged 6 to 16, also showed African-American boys developing earlier than their peers.
Though the study shows genital changes and pubic hair development in boys now as young as 10—as opposed to 1970s data that reported shifts at the ages of 11 and 13—Brown says there's more to male puberty symptoms than just developing larger testicles.