Puberty starting in the first and second grades? Yes — Pediatrics has just released a study confirming our worries.
Puberty starting in the first and second grades? Yes — that’s the deeply concerning trend that pediatricians like me have seen over the past 20 years, and Pediatrics has just released a study confirming our worries. From 1997 to 2010, the percent of 7-year-old white girls in the U.S. with early breast development (the first sign of puberty) jumped from 5 percent to 10 percent; for black girls, the jump was from 15 percent to 23 percent; for Hispanic girls, the number now stands at 15 percent.
So why is this news such a big deal? For one thing, early puberty is terribly hard on girls socially, emotionally, and even physically. Research shows that girls who start puberty early experience higher rates of troubled relationships. They get bullied and sexually harassed. And when third-grade girls look like sixth-grade girls, adults expect them to act older, which makes the girls feel crazy.
The science community tells us that this phenomenon is probably related to “increased” nutrition — and, in fact, most of these young girls are overweight. Scientists also speculate that added hormones and other chemicals in foods may contribute.