Why Are Girls Hitting Puberty at 7 Years Old?
Most 7-year-old girls in the U.S. have interests related to Disney princesses, Littlest Pet Shop, and Polly Pockets. They are just a little older than a Kindergartner, and not even close to being pre-teens. However, some of these little girls are experiencing something they shouldn’t be experiencing for at least another 3-4 years; the onset of puberty.
The journal Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently published a new study regarding the earlier onset of puberty in some American girls. Typically, U.S. girls hit puberty around age 10 or 11.
“In this multisite study, there was substantial agreement regarding pubertal staging between examiners across sites. The proportion of girls who had breast development at ages 7 and 8 years, particularly among white girls, is greater than that reported from studies of girls who were born 10 to 30 years earlier.” -Journal Pediatrics
Studies have shown an increased risk of breast cancer for females who experienced early menarche, possibly due to increased levels of estrogen at an earlier age. According to experts, early menarche may also be associated with poor self image and premature sexual behavior, possibly resulting in unplanned pregnancies or other negative health implications.
“The study revealed a surprisingly large bump in the number of girls going through puberty between the ages of 7 and 8. For example, the researches found that 10 percent of 7-year-old white girls had some breast development as compared to 5 percent in a study published in 1997. Similarly, 23 percent of the 7-year-old black girls had started puberty as compared to 15 percent in the 1997 study.” Reported Linda Carroll at .
Some question whether hormones in milk and beef are to blame for the instances of early puberty, due to ongoing controversy surrounding the use of rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) which is a FDA approved, genetically engineered hormone, in use since 1994. Many parents feel there is an obvious connection, and the government is gambling with the health of our children. Other environmental chemicals and toxins have been questioned as well.
Obesity has also been named as a possible culprit for early breast development. Human fat cells produce estrogen, which stimulates breast development. The study’s lead author, Dr. Frank Biro, Director of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital, added; “Nobody’s sure what is driving the declining age of puberty. But the rise in obesity could be at least partly to blame.”
Bottom line, no one knows for sure right now, and some experts have decided to embark on a new long-term study to try to determine why some of our nation’s little girls are hitting puberty while still in primary grade school. The new study will take a long-term look at the impact of puberty and other factors on breast cancer. Researchers enrolled 1,239 girls between the ages of 6 and 8 from three sites in the U.S.; New York’s East Harlem, the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area, and the San Francisco Bay area.
During an interview on the Today show, Dr. Ivor Horn stressed the importance of treating girls age appropriately, and remembering their bodies may be maturing too rapidly, but their brains and emotions are those of a 7-year-old. Dr. Horn warned parents to exercise caution, especially with the presence of older siblings, and the potential for younger girls to be exposed to the activities and behaviors of older children.
“When you have a 7-year-old and her body is developing, she still has the mind of a 7-year-old. It’s really important that parents continue to treat their children in an age appropriate way. It’s important to make sure that a 7-year-old remains a 7-year-old.”