For girls, early puberty (early puberty) is defined as the onset of puberty before the age of 8 years. Instead of starting at the average age of 10 or 11, women girls with early puberty they begin to develop breasts and show other signs of physical maturity at the age of 6 years. years.
In addition to interrupting a girl’s childhood, early puberty is associated with a number of negative health consequences , which include depression, substance abuse, heart disease, breast cancer and diabetes. Due to these implications, early puberty has been of great interest to physicians, psychologists and researchers.
Very often, an exact cause cannot be identified. Although some biological factors have been linked to early puberty, researchers have also discovered several psychological or psychosocial factors that may contribute.
A girl may be at increased risk for early puberty due to several factors:
- Obesity : Just as malnutrition can delay puberty, overnutrition can speed up its onset. Studies show that girls who are overweight go through puberty at an earlier age than other girls.
- Race Early puberty seems to affect boys of some races more than others. A 2010 study published in Pediatrics found that among 1,200 American girls, about 23% of African Americans, 15% of Hispanics, 10% of whites, and 2% of Asians had started puberty by the age of seven.
- Genetics Although rare, some genetic mutations can cause the pituitary gland to release sex hormones prematurely, which can lead to early puberty. Two.
- Exposure to sex hormones Another theory is that coming into contact with substances that contain hormone-like chemicals, sometimes found in sources such as food, plastics and personal care products, could increase a child’s risk of early puberty. .
In addition to these possible medical reasons, some studies have indicated psychological stressors and family influences that may induce puberty at an earlier age than normal. .
These are not a predictor of what will happen, although some tests have suggested it could increase the risk.
One thing that can influence the time of puberty in girls is family conflict. One study, for example, found that girls from less understanding families with more marital conflicts tended to reach puberty earlier than their counterparts in more favorable family backgrounds..
Childhood experiences, such as struggles between divorced parents, were related to the difference of only a few months at puberty. However, the idea that such experiences should make a difference is interesting.
Although researchers are not very sure why this happens, it is clear that prolonged stress of any kind (physical, social or psychological) seems to accelerate the maturation of girls.
It was found that the conflict between the figures of the parents (married or not), the dysfunction of the family as a whole and the decrease in warmth in the family are related to early puberty in girls.
The absence of the biological father
Girls who grow up in homes without a biological father are more likely to reach puberty earlier than those who live with their biological father. Specifically, girls in fatherless homes are about twice as likely to have puberty before the age of 12.
It is not clear why an absent father should trigger puberty earlier. One theory is that it could be a sign of increased stress and family conflict at home or it can even affect sleep patterns and increase exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals..
Parental mental illness
If one of the parents, especially the mother, has a mental illness, there is some evidence that her daughter may have puberty earlier than her colleagues who have a mentally healthy mother.
Why might a parent’s mental health matter? Like family conflicts, having a parent with a mental disorder can be a source of intense and chronic stress. If stress causes a faster maturation, it turns out that the mental health of parents could affect the time of puberty in a child. .
A word from Verywell
Although you may think of early puberty as just a biological change, it can have negative consequences for a girl’s social and emotional health. If your daughter is experiencing this, it is a good idea to seek professional help. Your doctor is a good place to start to find the support you need to ease the transition and solve any problems.