What causes early puberty?

Filed under: Tweens, Teens, Health & Safety: Babies, Nutrition: Health, Going Green

I know several women, including my daughter Christy, who hit puberty before the age of ten. Breast development is considered the first sign of the onset of puberty, but lord knows it isn't the only one. Besides menstruation, the hormonal effects of puberty can be tough on a little girl who is barely past the age of dolls and tea parties.

In the past, puberty at the age of nine would have been cause for alarm. But these days, it is much more common in girls in the United States and researchers are trying to figure out why. One new study claims that environmental toxins may be to blame. The mycoestrogen zearalenone (ZEA), which has properties similar to estrogen, can be found naturally in the environment but is also structurally similar to anabolic growth agents used in animal breeding. Could that be the cause of early puberty?

Another theory is that children are adjusting their sexual development to their environment. Can stressors in a child's life - such as marital conflict, depression and lack of parental support - cause the onset of early puberty? In support of that theory, a study published in the journal Child Development claims that preschool girls living in highly supportive families had lower levels of pubertal maturation by the seventh grade.

Clearly, the true cause of this phenomenon is yet to be discovered and it very well may be a combination of many factors. But as a parent of a young girl, the trend concerns me. I know from experience that the early onset of puberty can lead to all kinds of issues that a child just isn't emotionally prepared to deal with.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.