I recently heard an interesting segment on National Public Radio about girls beginning puberty earlier than they did a generation ago — as early as age 6 or 7. I wanted to know why, since the usual start of puberty occurs between ages 9 and 12 for girls and 10 and 13 for boys.
Louise Greenspan, M.D., and Julianna Deardorff, Ph.D., have researched this topic extensively and have written a practical book, “The New Puberty: How to Navigate Development in Today’s Girls.” The book discusses the “whys” and also offers parents, teachers, coaches and caretakers guidance and tips for having age-appropriate conversations on sensitive topics such as breast development and menstruation.
I did some online research and discovered that many factors contribute to early puberty. They include being overweight or obese, chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system, and stress or dysfunction in the child’s home.
Faster growth and development has many emotional implications for children and families. It can lead to behavioral, psychological and physical issues related to self-esteem, body image, eating disorders and depression. Early puberty may even increase the risk for breast cancer later in life, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American Academy of Pediatrics defines the onset of puberty as the development of breast buds in girls and the growth of testicles in boys. When these changes occur unusually early (before age 8 for girls and before age 9 for boys), children should be evaluated by a pediatrician, who may make a referral to a pediatric endocrinologist or pediatric gynecologist.
Norton Healthcare offers a series of free “Let’s Talk” classes, which are designed to start sometimes difficult discussions on topics faced by families with growing kids. Make plans to attend a Girl Talk or Teen Talk class and open the lines of communication with your kids in a casual, conversational atmosphere.
A class for mothers and daughters
I ♥ Me: Building Self-Esteem
In this discussion for moms and girls age 11 and older, a pediatrician will address factors that affect self-esteem, how to recognize signs of low self-esteem and how to have healthy self-esteem.
Thursday, March 5 • 6 to 7:30 p.m.
A class for parents and teens
Boys to Men
Experts in adolescent health will use an informal and engaging format to present and discuss issues on the minds of parents and boys ages 10 to 14. Topics include bodily changes, emotional ups and downs, how to discuss challenging subjects and finding trusted resources. Boys must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Dads and moms are encouraged to attend.
Wednesday, May 20 • 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Marshall Women’s Health & Education Center
Norton Medical Plaza 3 – St. Matthews
4123 Dutchmans Lane, Suite 108
To register for one or both of these free classes, visit NortonHealthcare.com or call (502) 629-1234.