Quick Hit: Early Puberty and What it Means for Girls

Check out this excellent post written by my colleague Melanie over on Akimbo discussing the effects of early puberty on the health of young girls:

In recent years, the transition from girlhood to womanhood  has seemed to come faster, and has had everyone from gossip columnists to politicians abuzz. From sexualized kindergarteners on TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras” to horrific images and tragic stories of child brides in the news, the sexual maturity of young girls is in the spotlight. A new study out today complicates the issue: girls—at least in America—are hitting puberty earlier and earlier—some as young as seven years old. In the spirit of “protecting girlhood,” there’s been a lot of brouhaha over naming the culprit of early physical maturation of girls, with both obesity and environmental factors under scrutiny. But instead of pointing fingers, we need to face the facts and focus on the changing needs of girls in our lives and around the world.

Click here to read the whole piece!

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/kaje/ Karley

    Are boys hitting puberty earlier too? I never hear anything about that.

    • jiujitsubuddah

      I get the feeling they don’t think boys going through puberty earlier is an issue, and so don’t report on it. The underlying message of these reports are “ZOMG! They will have sex earlier and virginity is sacred!” And we all know boys’ virginity is unimportant…

    • brianna-g

      Actually, boys aren’t going through puberty earlier, not especially. Female hormones are stored in fat, so healthier, heavier girls have periods earlier– thus proper nutrition leads to earlier puberty for girls. Also, the hormones in meat that are possibly contributing are female hormones, not male ones. First male ejaculation is still consistently happening 13-15, and deviations outside that range are uncommon.

      This, of course, means that many of these girls are unlikely to act out new sexual feelings on their male, prepubescent peers, and are more likely to look for older boys; this introduces a whole new concern.

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    One wonders how we’ll define adolescence going forth, knowing that biological maturation seems to be happening sooner and sooner.

  • http://feministing.com/members/leeraloo/ Leeraloo

    From a physical standpoint, I do think girls are hitting puberty earlier. My younger sister and many other girls from her age group started menstruating at a much younger age than me and my friends did (and of course it’s not just menstruation that’s happening at a younger age). Having done a lot of research on the state of farming in America – factory farming, basically – I’m convinced that it’s the amount of hormones that are being pumped into the meats we eat that are causing children to physically grow up faster. I realize that a vegetarian lifestyle is completely unappealing to many people, or completely impossible because healthy eating can easily become an issue of class and income. However, I’ve heard the argument made many times that humans just shouldn’t be eating meat for every meal. It’s a more recent development, societally speaking, that we consume so much meat; at first, it was a symbol of wealth and status to be able to afford meat. Now it’s just become ingrained in us that every meal should have a protein like that. It just seems like these facts, about the meat that we eat, are so little publicized. People aren’t really aware of what they’re putting in their bodies because the business of meat production is very secretive.

    And of course there’s a certain level of mental maturation that comes along with physical maturation. If a young girl is hitting puberty earlier, in a physical sense – growing breasts, menstruating, getting taller, etc. – then they’re going to begin coming into their own sexual identities a little earlier than they perhaps normally would. And I’m not sure how much the hormones in meat affect males. I think that, in some cases, it’s a problem that has a very specific effect on women. I recommend Ruth L. Ozeki’s “My Year of Meats” for a little more insight on this. It’s a novel, but very fact-based; it touches on the state of the modern meat industry and it takes a very feminist approach to the issue. You’d think they’d be relatively unrelated ideas, but you’d be surprised.

  • Pingback: Early Puberty is a Justice Issue