Recently, I read an alarming statistic that describes the onset of puberty as beginning to occur at an earlier and earlier age for American girls, with many girls as young as 7. New research shows that 10.4 percent of white girls, 23.4 of African-American girls and almost 15 percent of Hispanic girls (Pediatrics, 2010) have displayed signs of early onset puberty.
Early onset of puberty begs the questions – who or what is stealing the childhood of this age group of girls? I researched the probable causes for this among America’s children and discovered studies that attribute it to the hormones that are used in cattle feed. (Journal Of Public Health Nutrition, 2010). Further, the use of the so-called stealth estrogens is why the European Union has banned the import of most hormone-treated North American beef
Another hidden cause of early onset of puberty is the presence of many environmental toxins, which act as hormone disruptors. In his book, Our Stolen Future (1997), Dr. John Myers highlighted the toxic effects of some of the estimated 70,000 chemicals in commercial use. Myers believes that some shampoos, for example, contain almost the same amount of hormone as low-dose estrogen patches.
A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (2005) explains the age of onset of puberty for girls is controlled by the value of fat stores in the body.
Enough fat in the body signals to the brain that there would likely be enough nourishment available for reproduction. In other words, improved access to food and nutrition has caused this change, particularly over the past 20 years.
The problem of early onset of puberty also affects children’s social development. They may look more mature but they still have the emotions of young children.
For boys, with the exception of stealth hormones used in beef and environmental toxins, the connections between fat storage and early onset of puberty is reversed when compared to girls. That is, studies have shown that fat storage in boys actually delays the onset of puberty, which can affect boys in other ways, particularly with self-esteem and body image.
Is the magic of childhood gone? Statistics don’t lie.
Early onset of puberty is not only stealing childhood but may also have other repercussions later in development.
Will there be other health issues that they must face?
Dr. David Sortino is a psychologist and currently Director of Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to teachers, parents, and students. Dr. Sortino can be reached at email@example.com. For additional articles go to davidsortino.com