Young girls in the US are reaching puberty at an earlier age than in the past, and while the causes are unknown, some experts fear this will have long-term detrimental consequences for young women’s mental and physical health.
According to the Daily Mail, the average age of puberty in the US has dropped from the typical, biologically recognized, age of 12, to 10 for females.
Experts said that the US’ growing obesity crisis could be the root cause, blaming poor diets for pushing up puberty. Others think it could be caused by violent childhoods, and there is also the theory that it is linked to an imbalance of certain hormones.
There are also the negative long-term downsides, like an association between early puberty and developing cancer, which remains unexplained for now, and the traumatic experiences caused by a young girl growing up just a little too quickly.
The phenomenon was first detected by Marcia Herman-Giddens, a public health expert at the University of North Carolina when she began to gather data on more than 17,000 girls in the mid-1990s.
She found that the average age of puberty was dropping, falling to 10 years old, with some girls developing as early as age six. Her findings spurred continued research into the topic, with experts across many fields investigating what caused this shift, and what its long-term effects may be.
Both the causes and effects of precocious puberty, when a child undergoes the process too early, are wide-reaching, and can not just be explained with a simple, one-size-fits-all solution.
Instead, the age of puberty shifting forward could be the result of a variety of factors. And the after-effects it can have on a girl’s life can be wide-reaching, the report.