Why so young? The consequences of early puberty for girls

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When you think of puberty for girls, what comes to mind? Training bras, middle school, and a whole lot of awkward. But most people don’t imagine puberty happening in most girls beginning in the middle of elementary school. Unfortunately, according to a recent longitudinal study, that has become reality.

What was the study?

According to an article in The Atlantic, Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist, and a team of other researchers conducted a longitudinal study that followed 1200 girls between the ages of six and eight for seven years, between 2004 and 2011. They did this in order to see when puberty for girls began.

Puberty for girls is usually measured by one a girl’s first menstrual cycle begins, however, it actually should begin when breast growth begins. In order to measure when breast growth begins, a doctor must perform an in-person exam.

The Results

After studying puberty for girls for seven years, the researchers found some pretty disturbing results. At the turn of the century, girls got their period between the ages of 16 and 17. A generation ago, less than five percent of girls started their period at age 8. That number has more than doubled since then. Nowadays girls get their period around the age of 13. Breast budding, researchers found, varied by race. The median age for breast budding for African-American Girls in the study was 8.8 years. For Asian girls it was 9.7. Half the girls in the study were developing even EARLIER than that.


What are risk factors for early puberty for girls?

The risk factors for early puberty for girls includes food insecurity, witnessing violence, chemicals in the environment, and obesity. Certain plastic compounds used regularly in plastic bottles, shampoos, carpeting, plastic toys, and the steering wheels of cars, have been found to interfere with the makeup of our endocrine systems – hormones and glands- and disturb fat cells.  This can bring about early puberty for girls.


What are the consequences for early puberty for girls?

Early puberty for girls can lead to a whole slew of terrible consequences. It is linked to greater risks of breast cancer, diabetes, teen pregnancy, HPV, heart disease, and dying from any cause. Developing early also puts girls at a greater risk for depression, drug use, and having sex at an earlier age.


Have a struggling daughter? Trails Carolina can help

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for struggling teens, ages 10-17. Our students commonly deal with issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, trauma, and other behavioral challenges.



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