Early Puberty in African-American Girls: Nutrition Past and Present

By Talpade, Medha; Talpade, Salil | Adolescence, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Early Puberty in African-American Girls: Nutrition Past and Present


Talpade, Medha, Talpade, Salil, Adolescence


Considerable research has been conducted on the changes that take place during puberty. Among girls, psychiatric risks have been found to be associated with early onset. Hayward et al. (1997) associated early puberty with disturbed body image, scholastic underachievement, and high-risk behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and sexual intercourse. They also indicated that these girls are at a higher risk for developing bulimia, phobic disorders, and depression during high school. Thus, from a public health standpoint, early sexual maturation needs to be addressed.

One of the theories that attempt to explain early onset of puberty points to chemical changes as the main reason. Biologists believe that greater exposure to estrogen in hair products, plastics, and insecticides may be implicated (Marshall, 1993; McKinney & Waller, 1994; Sharpe & Skappeback, 1993; Modica, 1997). Such chemicals are referred to as endocrine disrupters (Gillette, 1997).

Another explanation is based on the psychobiologic theory of stress (Goleman, 1991), which is rooted in Darwin's theory of evolution. According to this view, the time of puberty is not biologically fixed, rather it is influenced by experiences with one's environment (Belsky et al., 1991). Girls who are exposed to extremely stressful environments may reach sexual maturity earlier in order to ensure propagation.

Nutrition and changes in nutrition over time have also been theorized to be the cause of early puberty. According to this theory, the main factors that determine the age of menses are health and nutrition (Goleman, 1991). Gillette (1997) believes that estrogen-like growth hormones found in meat and milk provide the stimulus. Jennings (1997) reports that researchers suggest that the hormone leptin, produced by body fat, signals the brain to begin puberty. Thus, body fat percentage would determine when puberty would begin.

Researchers in general agree that this area of concern is particularly applicable to the African-American population. Herman-Giddens et al. (1997) indicated that for some reason early sexual maturation is more prevalent in the African-American population. Their study included 17,077 girls, ranging in age from 3 to 12. Complete physical exams were conducted and assessments of pubertal maturation were ascertained. Data analyses of the girls, of whom 9.6% were African-American and 90.4% Caucasian, indicated that at the age of 3, 3% of African-American and 1% of Caucasian girls showed breast and/or pubic hair development, with proportions increasing to 27.2% and 6.7%, respectively, at age 7. At age 8, 48.3% of African-American girls and 14.7% of Caucasian girls had begun sexual development. It was noted that at every age and for each characteristic, African-American girls were more advanced than Caucasians. Specifically, the mean ages of onset of breast development for African-American and Caucasian girls were 8 .87 years (SD 1.93) and 9.96 years (SD = 1.82), respectively; and for pubic hair development, 8.78 years (SD = 2.00) and 10.51 years (SD = 1.67), respectively. Menses occurred at 12.16 years (SD = 1.21) in African-American girls and 12.88 years (SD = 1.20) in Caucasian girls.

Preliminary findings of a study conducted at the USDA's Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston indicate that African-American girls tend to have more muscle and bone mass by age 6 than do Caucasian or Hispanic girls, a trend that progresses during puberty. A study of the changes in vertebral bone density at various stages of sexual development in African-American and Caucasian females indicated that the marked difference between them in vertebral bone density occurs during a relatively brief period late in puberty (Gilsanz et al., 1991). Further, cultural differences in bone mineral density (Wang, Aguirre, Bhudhikar, Kirshch, Marcus & Bachrach, 1997) have been found; greater femoral neck bone mineral apparent density (BMAD) was present in African-American than in white females at all pubertal stages. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Early Puberty in African-American Girls: Nutrition Past and Present
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.