Early Puberty: Why is it Happening and Why Should We Care?

Have you noticed anything strange about kids lately?

Okay, that’s actually a loaded question because, as a parent of two,  I can verify that noticing something strange about them occurs every 10-12 minutes.

Still, an excellent article out this week in The Guardian  brings to light a worry that many parents have been facing recently when it comes to their children’s physical development. Over and over again, moms and dads are recalling how things used to be not so long ago and asking:

‘”Why is puberty starting at a younger age?”

It’s a powerful question and it becomes even more important by the fact that there is still scientific suspicion that early puberty might very well be linked to breast cancer in women.

According to the Guardian piece, which notes several recent studies on the subject, the depth of knowledge regarding puberty is nowhere as deep or well-researched as one might imagine. In fact, they note,” The measurement of puberty has barely changed since 1970 when the seminal study by Marshall and Tanner was published.”

In other words, we don’t know a lot more than we do know.

But, there are signs that childhood obesity, a hot topic in America these days, may in fact be linked to the onset of puberty earlier than in the past. Especially in girls, who typically enter into it between the ages of  8-12 years old ( as opposed to boys: 9-14 years old). The Guardian shines a light on the fact that one study done recently indicated that children from developing countries who were adopted into a developed one were, “10 to 20 times more likely to develop precocious puberty than children in the developed country.”

That’s a staggering figure and, although it is just the results of a single bit of research, it is still one which would certainly seem to warrant a lot more looking in to.

And, as The Guardian‘s piece suggests, beyond the childhood obesity data, there are other alarming signs that early puberty around the world might also be connected to pesticides, insecticides, or even chemicals found in really common household items like, “plastic toys, hair sprays, deodorants, shampoo, nail polish and perfumes.”

In short, there are no hard answers to be had yet to the mounting questions about early puberty.

But, lest you think that it’s not really as big a deal as it seems, let me leave you with this mind-blowing find from research done by a  German team that The Guardian wisely puts forth:

-Back in 1860, puberty in girls was typically around 16.6 years.

– By 1920, 14.6 was the average age girls were reaching it.

– Forward to 1950, and the age lowers significantly to  13.1

–  In 1980, the average age an adolescent girl hits puberty is 12.5

– By 2010, the age had dropped to 10.5.

So, yeah. Something is definitely up and I’m not offering much, I know. I’m just throwing it out there because, as parents, we should probably be paying very close attention.


Info sources:The Guardian Breast Cancer Fund
Image: http:


Article Posted 3 years Ago

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