Parents have long been concerned that puberty seems to be happening earlier and earlier these days. But is it true? It looks like, at least for girls, the answer may be yes. The average age of menarche (first period) has shifted over the last century from 16 or 17 to 13 or younger, and breast development may be beginning one to four months earlier. But while research seems to indicate that girls today may, on average, begin puberty earlier, they are going through it more slowly. The possible reasons for this shift include <a href=”http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1104748/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=1104748″ target=”_blank”>exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals and toxins in the environment</a>, <a href=”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101121160234.htm” target=”_blank”>increasing rates of obesity</a>, and maybe even<a href=”http://www.wnyc.org/story/how-girls-are-developing-earlier-in-an-age-of-new-puberty/” target=”_blank”> antibiotics in our food supply</a>.
But despite earlier physical maturation, psychosocial maturation is still linked to chronological age. In other words, no matter how “grown up” a girl may look, she’s still just a kid. It can be stressful to children to be perceived or treated as older than they are, and early puberty may expose them to greater risks. Early-maturing girls are more likely to <a href=”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22824445″ target=”_blank”>smoke cigarettes</a>, they are at high risk for <a href=”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4118468/” target=”_blank”>substance use</a>, and they
have higher rates of <a href=”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23998681″ target=”_blank”>eating disorders</a>.
If a child is truly going through “<a href=”http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/sexual/precocious.html” target=”_blank”>precocious puberty</a>” there are medications and treatments available. Always consult a doctor with health concerns. Beyond that, what is a parent to do? <a href=”http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/10/05/hidden-hormones-can-bring-about-early-puberty-in-kids/” target=”_blank”>Health experts recommend</a> limiting chemical exposure by choosing organic and local foods as much as possible, using non-toxic cleaning products, avoiding shampoos, soaps, and cosmetics with a lengthy list of chemical ingredients, and maintaining an active lifestyle where children get ample physical exercise.Read More