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Early Puberty for Girls of Working Moms

parents and kids, puberty

Is it really your job that's making her grow up so fast?

Working moms, here’s another side effect of your selfish, career-focused ways: Your daughters will go through puberty much earlier than their peers raised by stay-at-home moms!

A controversial researcher, one who claimed long hours of daycare made babies feel less loved, claims in his latest work that a girl’s march toward puberty starts in the sling. The more securely attached a girl is to her mother, the more time she’ll take going through puberty. But weak or insecure attachment means the hormones will kick in significantly sooner.

Jay Besky of Birbeck University London and researchers from Duke say that once-insecurely attached baby girls may account for the alarmingly young age an increasing number of girls is going through puberty. Does that make you want to quit your job? Well, let’s first try to make sense of some of their assumptions.

A recent study in the journal Pediatrics, among other articles, claims girls are undergoing puberty at a far earlier age than just a generation ago. Some claim better nutrition — even obesity — or hormone-mimicking chemicals account for this. Besky and his fellow researchers are saying the mother-child bond influences this.

But the whole business of determining the onset of puberty is very subjective. Researchers have typically said puberty starts when breasts begin to develop. But when does a girl’s chest start developing? There’s hardly a scientific standard. Other problems with how we’re determining at what age individuals in a population have undergone puberty are wonderfully outlined here. And the lack of diversity in the data used in the most recent panic trigger is here (Hint: Only white girls’ data was counted).

An even worse problem for Besky’s study is the set of assumptions made about how an attached child behaves (or, more poignantly, how an emotionally distant child behaves), and what, for crying out loud, “attached” means.

His description of an emotionally distant child reads exactly like the behavior of my first child, who was so inseparably attached to me that anytime I left her — with her grandmother, for instance — she would look away and ignore me when I returned (after 10 minutes, people!). What I’m saying is that determining the attached-ness of a child to his mother is just as subjective as eyeballing chest tissue and deciding whether or not it’s breast tissue.

The Los Angeles Times tries to succinctly summarize these findings — a secure bond with your baby is good for emotional AND physical health. But don’t quit your day job if you don’t want to. Secure and happy bonds come in all shapes and sizes, just like little girls, their pituitary glands and the internal clocks that operate them.

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Photo: flickr.com/Pink Sherbet Photography

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