Stories about: Precocious puberty

Does early maturity make for a mean girl?

Many parents of pubescent and pre-pubescent girls encounter troubling behaviors among their daughters between the ages of 10 and 13. The apple of your eye may begin to talk back to you, choose questionable friends or dabble in mean girl behavior. It is worrisome. But a study published in the January issue of Pediatrics that linked early puberty in girls with relationships with more deviant peers, susceptibility to negative peer pressure and higher levels of delinquent and aggressive behaviors may sound an unnecessary alarm.

Previous studies have suggested a link between early puberty and behavioral and emotional problems in girls, but the researchers’ recommendations—specifically limiting association with deviant peers for early maturing girls—should apply to all adolescents, says Diane Stafford, MD, attending physician in endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

This recent study in Pediatrics of 2,607 girls and their parents focused on interviews at ages 11, 13 and 16 years. Girls and their parents were questioned about age of menarche (first period), best friend’s deviant behaviors like alcohol or drug use, delinquency and aggression.

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Researchers Unlock Genetic Cause for Precocious Puberty

Oftentimes children are cautioned against growing up too quickly; however, researchers may have uncovered a genetic cause for the small subset of boys and girls who physically undergo puberty at uncharacteristically young ages.

Precocious puberty, which is defined by the development of secondary sexual characteristics before 8 years in girls and 9 years in boys, has been associated with an increase in conduct and behavioral disorders during adolescence. The disorder affects more girls than boys, and is becoming more common, although the reasons for this are unclear.

Recently, the media has questioned whether puberty is starting earlier, even in those children without this condition. And a 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) followed American girls of various ethnicities, locations and backgrounds, and demonstrated that by 7 years old, more than 10 percent of Caucasian girls and 23 percent of African-American girls showed signs of breast development, indicating that puberty has begun.

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Precocious puberty

For most parents, few developmental milestones are more dreaded than their daughters starting puberty. The idea of their sweet, innocent little girl turning into a moody, hormonal young woman is enough to keep most moms and dads up at night. The only saving grace for some of these parents is the belief that puberty is still years away.

But what if, even with a daughter still in kindergarten, the physical and emotional rollercoaster ride of puberty is lurking just around the corner? According to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, this is reality for more and more American families. The study followed girls of various ethnicities, locations and backgrounds, and found that by 7 years old, more than 10 percent of Caucasian girls and 23 percent of African-American girls showed signs of breast development, indicating that puberty has begun.

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