Early Puberty

9 years ago
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Laurie and Debbie say:

Last July, Laurie met a woman who worked for Planned Parenthood and taught sex ed in Bay Area schools.  She said that she now teaches in junior high school and high school but that she wanted to be teaching in elementary schools as well.  She said the puberty beginning at 7 was not uncommon. Laurie was probably more surprised than maybe she should have been, and did some research about it.  We included it as part of our conversation at the Kids and Body Image Panel at BlogHer

The fact that puberty is starting significantly earlier for girls and boys is not new news.  The quotes below are from a study done about 10 years ago.   

There are new guidelines for pediatricians that are guaranteed to shock: girls who start to develop breasts and pubic hair at age six or seven are not necessarily "abnormal." (Kaplowitz, et al., 1999).

....Results found that in their seventh year, 27% of African-American girls and 7% of white girls had begun breast development and/or had pubic hair. Between ages eight and nine, those numbers had increased to 48% of African-American girls and 15% of white girls.  National Research Center for Women and Families

A new report by the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society (LWPES), a nationwide network of physicians headquartered in Stanford, California, suggests that it is normal for white girls as young as 7 and black girls as young as 6 to start developing breasts. This conclusion was based on a study of 17,000 girls between the ages of 3 and 12 conducted by the Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS) network of 1,500 pediatricians nationwide.

And we're also talking about boys.

The early sexual development of girls has received tremendous media attention, but there has been no similar attention to boys. A new study of signs of puberty among boys between 8 and 19 may change that, because it shows that early puberty is also happening among boys.

I'm surprised, as is Tracee Sioux at Empowering Girls: So Sioux Me, that this has not been in major public discussion. (In spite of what the CNN quote above says.)

This raises a number of questions for me.  These are just a few of them.

One prime characteristic of childhood is that it's the time we deal with the world before the surge of adolescent hormones. What are the effects of a shortened childhood development?

What are the implications of "hot" clothes for girl tweens and cool adult clothes for boy tweens when they have adolescent bodies as opposed to children's bodies?

How does raunch clothing on young girls relate to this? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

What are the effects of adolescent hormones on children who are still playing with toys?

We worry about pedophiles harming children; what about men who are attracted to nubile or developed bodies, and would not be attracted to 7 to 10-year-olds with child bodies?

When we're talking about early puberty, what changes in the implications of the ways society permits or encourages boys to have a more intense adolescent sexuality than we do for girls?

And finally how do we help parents and children to deal with this effectively?

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