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Growing Up Too Fast:The Toll That’s Paid

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By Rachel Derry
Staff Writer LIFamilies

There was a time in every adult’s life when they went through the big “change.” It was puberty, of course, and as most folks can remember, there was nothing special about their “special time.” In fact, puberty is one of the most nerve racking and hectic times in a young person’s life. Today’s young girls are being forced to go through puberty even younger, making a difficult time even more of a challenge.

In the 1700’s it was the standard for young women to not menstruate until they were 17 to 18 years of age. In more recent times, on average girls start to show their first signs of puberty around age 10, and start menstruating by age 12. The drastic decline in age over the centuries is believed to be because of our abundance of food.

There are many girls, however, who are not so lucky as to wait until 12 to have their first menstruation. It is becoming more and more common for girls today to start reaching puberty and developing at ages 6 and 7. This fast forwarded cycle is called precocious puberty, and can eventually pay a price in the health of these young girls.

So, what is causing precocious puberty? Researchers have found no definitive answers, but have found reoccurring factors that can be causing precocious puberty and in turn can help avoid it for other young girls. There has been a definite connection between body mass and early puberty. The more body fat a child has, the more likely that it can facilitate an early development. This connection can be seen back to the 1700’s when girls were only menstruating at 17 and 18 years of age. They were also mal nourished. To help slow the onset of early puberty, or to avoid it, young girls should be encouraged to eat right and be active.

There are many contaminants that have been shown to advance puberty. Young girls who live in more rural areas are more likely to be exposed to and affected by pesticides. Although there is little to be done in these circumstances, as long as pesticides are legal to use, there are precautions that can be taken. Fresh fruits and vegetable are still the best answer for eating healthy, but make sure they are always well washed. Filtered or bottled water is safest when available. When using plastic wraps and containers, make sure that they are always BPA free.

Knowing what cosmetics and beauty products are being used will help too. Many contain placenta extracts and plant estrogens, which are being absorbed into the body when they’re used. These added hormones can assist early puberty.
Breast feeding is also considered an early preventative measure. Breast milk is believed to be able to maintain overall growth due to its active hormone content. Breastfeeding is also considered a preventative measure for obesity: allowing an infant to learn to stop when it’s full, opposed to stopping when the bottle is empty.

Early puberty can have its physical and emotional toll on young girls. Puberty is a confusing and aggravating time in ones life. When young girls hit puberty at an early rate, they often encounter self-esteem and body image issues at a much earlier age than usual. This can also cause clinical depression to develop, as well as eating disorders. Girls who are maturing too quickly may also reach sexual maturity too quickly. This can lead to dating and sexual activity at much too young of an age.

Physically, children experiencing puberty early may also be susceptible to early growth spurts which may stop them from reaching their true height potential. Body growth occurs for the duration of puberty. When puberty is started early, it ends early as well. Early puberty also increases the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and early infertility later in life.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Growing Up Too Fast:The Toll That’s Paid

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