It takes something so drastic like the news about the 10-year-old girl in Colombia recently reported in the media to have given birth via caesarian section to shake us up. We should have paid attention to what has been all around us for quite some time: our children are maturing way too early and little ten year old girls look like they are at least 16. The clothes, behavior, makeup, everything about them is showing this trend, and we are reluctant to look at it as anything more than a fashion. But when their childhood, a crucial part of their development, stops too early, and they start being adults before they are physically and mentally ready, there are consequences. Getting pregnant and giving birth too early is just one of them.
Causes and trends
The trend of early puberty, mostly signified by early menstruation in girls, is not unique to the USA. It has been reported and researched in many developed countries. Environmental conditions are investigated as potential causes on hormonal development in girls, particularly evident in immigrant girls from developing countries.
Scientists from the University of Wisconsin investigated the effect of obesity and overeating on the onset of early puberty. The indications are there, but the scientists found it hard to distinguish obesity from other potential causes such as pollution, genetics and living conditions. Nevertheless, their findings are significant enough to alert parents to watch carefully eating habits of their children.
One study in Finland investigated the link between the early puberty and emotional and behavioral problems in early adolescents.. The study involved 36,549 young people between 14 and 16. Bulimia, anxiety, bullying, substance abuse, drinking, truancy and other problems were reported as much more common the earlier the puberty started.
Physical effects of early maturity and pregnancy of girls has been more investigated than emotional, social and psychological. Scientists agree that early birth has higher statistics of birth defects, low baby weight and childbirth death. The number of teenage pregnancies is growing all over the world, and while the numbers seem to be declining in the US, about 820,000 American teens become pregnant every year. 79 percent of pregnant teenagers are unmarried, and 24 percents of girls who had their first intercourse before they were 14 report that the sex was not consensual.
More than just pregnancies
Teenage pregnancies and births are the most drastic consequence of early maturity in children. For those whose early puberty is caused by some health issues, there are successful treatments. If you are a parent of a girl or a boy who look and sound like they are maturing too early, consult your doctor. The signs are the same as in any puberty: breasts, pubic hear and early menses in girls, body hair and growing penis and testicles in boys. If nothing seems to be wrong, the best way you can help your kid is by providing them with accurate information what puberty involves and what changes they should expect. Puberty is tough enough for adolescents, but when it happens to early, kids are confused. Since their hormones are raging, they need to learn abut sex and pregnancy before schools offer that information.
Media is not helping by photos of 14-year models in beautiful clothes and elaborate makeup, beauty pageants for four and five-year old girls in full regalia. Industry is making huge money on girls-women clothes and beauty products. Our girls want to be grown-up too early even without early hormonal changes. If we are not careful, we will have a whole generation of Barbie dolls growing up.