Good grief — we thought we had it bad with all of that uphill-bothways walking and Are You There God? It's Me Margaret-ing, but today's girls definitely have it rougher. In addition to online bullying and One Direction, girls are now dealing with entering puberty at earlier and earlier ages, with some even showings signs of breast growth at as young as 5. And, as if puberty isn't already confusing enough, no one has a solid idea on what's causing this accelerated development. Hoo-fucking-ray.
When it comes to this early development, there's notable racial disparity, with 23% of African American girls showing breast growth by age seven, followed by 15% of Hispanic girls, 10% of Caucasian girls and only 2% of Asian girls. It has been theorized that stress, environment and obesity could all be contributing factors (which narrows the cause down to...everything), so it would be interesting and perhaps beneficial to see a percentage breakdown based on socioeconomic status as opposed to race. Does early puberty effect 23% of African American girls living in wealthy communities as it does girls living in lower-income areas? Are 10% of Caucasian girls developing prematurely across the board or is it more common for those living with less access to nutrition?
Once we accept that socioeconomics plays a role here, the issue becomes more complicated — this is no longer just biology, and we have to look at the mental healthcare and support available to those who don't have assumed access. Going through puberty at such an early age is already difficult enough, but without the help of counseling and routine access to treatment, it can be terrifying. Doctors are encouraging parents to focus on their daughters' emotional well-being rather than attempting to deter development, but what do we do for the girls whose parents have to work long hours and can't afford a team of professional cheerleaders?
Puberty Before Age 10: A New ‘Normal'? [New York Times Magazine]