Magazine article Psychology Today

Ahead of Her Time

Magazine article Psychology Today

Ahead of Her Time

Article excerpt

GIRLS ARE DEVELOPING earlier today than they did even a generation ago. Observing more than 1,200 girls for almost 10 years, we have found that the onset of pubic hair and breast development is happening at markedly younger ages-up to two years sooner than in the 1970s. (The average age of first menstruation, now about 12.5 years, seems to have declined only slightly.) Likely suspects include increased weight gain and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including plastic components and pesticides in our food and water, which can affect the hormonal system. Early exposure to stress also appears to cause girls to enter puberty early.

This so-called "new normal" is troubling given the risks associated with early puberty. Early developers may face unwanted sexual attention from older boys, increased pressure to take risks, and criticism for their rapidly changing bodies. …

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