American girls starting puberty earlier, leading experts to worry about their emotional and cognitive develpment

MSNBC reports:

Puberty at age 7 or 8 isn’t so unusual these days. A new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, shows that more American girls are maturing earlier and earlier. Typically, U.S. girls hit puberty around age 10 or 11.

Exactly what this shift means for girls isn’t clear yet — either on a group or individual level.  But there are budding concerns. For instance, studies have linked an early start to menstruation with an elevated risk of breast cancer. And other research has shown that girls who go through puberty early tend to have lower self-esteem and a poor body image. They are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors which can result in unplanned pregnancies, experts say…

The study revealed a surprisingly large bump in the number of girls going through puberty between the ages of 7 and 8. For example, the researches found that 10 percent of 7-year-old white girls had some breast development as compared to 5 percent in a study published in 1997. Similarly, 23 percent of the 7-year-old black girls had started puberty as compared to 15 percent in the 1997 study.

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