Precocious Puberty

Did you know that it is now common for girls to start their menstrual cycles when they are nine years old? Pubic hair and breasts begin showing up one to two years prior to menstruation, which put many girls in precocious puberty or early puberty at around age seven.

I find this shocking.

My first reaction is to find out the cause of such early development and put an abrupt and definitive stop to it before it effects my daughter.

Yet, immediately, I realize that I do not have that kind of power as a parent.

It’s not something I get to decide, like how much and what kind of television she’s exposed to. It’s pretty much up to God and some kind of backwards evolution.

Evolutionarily speaking females are having babies later in life, as opposed to earlier, right? Marrying and reproducing later rather than earlier. Why then, would the biological event of puberty be happening sooner rather than later?

Doing a Google search on the early maturation in girls was upsetting at best. There are lots of theories, some credible and some not, and it’s kind of hard to tell the two apart.

The best article I found was Growing Up Too Fast published in the Denver Post, by Jackie Avner who took the time to research the various theories.

Now, as you know I already told my six-year-old daughter Ainsley that we, females, bleed every month to explain the tampons and pads. She sees me naked nearly every day, as I can’t seem to train her to leave me alone in the bathroom. So, the pubic hair and breasts are things we’ve discussed frequently and openly.

I must be honest though, I previously told her she’d probably get breasts and hair when she was about 12 years old, because that’s when I got them and I thought it was hereditary. I had to amend that information and inform her that these things might be happening several years earlier.

Logan Levkoff, Sexologist & Sexuality Educator and author of Third Base Ain’t What It Used to Be: What Your Kids Are Learning About Sex Today- and How to Teach Them toBecome Sexually Healthy Adults had this to say on the topic of early maturation of girls, I think that there are two issues to consider: the implications of early menarche and how we teach our girls that an adult body does not mean that they are supposed to engage in adult behaviors and how to we teach our girls to love their bodies (and their menstrual status), when they get so many messages about how horrible having a period is, Levkoff said.

Also, Levkoff added, we need to teach fathers to remain present and affectionate with their daughters even as they physically transition through puberty.

As a mother, I can not control the onset of puberty, however I am her primary influence about the attitudes surrounding her femininity.

If I am curled up on the couch whining and moaning about how horrible my period is or muttering against God and his blasted curse, there is not much chance she will look forward to, embrace or accept her own period in a positive way regardless of when it happens for her.

Avoiding the issue that very young girls do have very adult bodies on today’s elementary school playground would very likely backfire. But, for today I have to digest this information before I can begin that dialogue. In other words – she might be ready for further discussion but I, most certainly, am not.

And her Daddy, maybe we won’t tell him about puberty till she’s 13 and he’s prepared for it – I’m only kidding! Jeez.

Further resources:
This is a fairly recent New York Times article about different cases.
This article blames early menstruation on childhood obesity.
This article describes gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty
This article insists it might be the absence of a father and the presence of a step-father.
This article hypothesizes it’s exposure to unknown contaminants.
These studies link early puberty to the mother’s exposure to estrogen (in creams or medication) or similar hormones during pregnancy.
This article blames it on hormones present in cow’s milk and a lack of attachment parenting.

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