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Why Are So Many Young Girls Experiencing Ever Earlier Puberty?

Female smiling student outdoors in the evening with friends

If you have a young daughter or granddaughter, you will naturally be anxious for them to remain a child for the normal number of years that you would expect – at the very least until they are about to start high school. But in the past decade, the number of early developers has risen substantially.

Doctors and parents alike are worried about possible causes

The current statistics are that by the age of 7 years old, 10% of white girls and 23% of black girls are starting to develop breasts. But I have found that the more research you do on this subject, the more possible reasons you find for this early puberty, or precocious puberty as some call it. Some researchers suggest the childhood obesity is the main reason with one in five US children aged between 6 and 11 now being obese.

But there are many other theories too. "Endocrine disrupting" chemicals that mimic or interfere with the body's natural sex hormones are partially responsible for early puberty in girls, according to a study conducted by researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "Research has shown that early pubertal development in girls can have adverse social and medical effects, including cancer and diabetes later in life." Researcher Mary Wolff said. "Our research shows a connection between chemicals that girls are exposed to on a daily basis and either delayed or early development."

According to NaturalNews, the researchers monitored 1,151 US girls between the ages of 6 and 8 for up to 2 years, regularly measuring the levels of phthalates, phenols and phytoestrogenis in their urine. They found that some of the chemicals appeared to delay puberty while others appeared to hasten it. The strongest effect was seen from chemicals classified asphthalates or phytoestrogens.

Here are some other theories

  • On other finding is that girls growing up in stressed families reach puberty earlier or in homes where the biological mother and father are not raising the family together, life can be less stable and maturing early is a reaction to the instability.
  • On a similar theme, researcher Jay Belsky of Birkbeck University in London hypothesized that precocious puberty may be a result of a risky, unstable environment — for example, one typified by weak infant-parent bonds. According to evolution, a girl's perception of such an unstable environment could compel her to want to reproduce before she'd die.
  • A further study says that if the father is absent or if an adult male who is not the girl's father is present, puberty will occur earlier. It is suggested that it may be that other unrelated men in the home, be they stepfathers or boyfriends, give off pheromones that set off the girls' biological clocks.
  • A recent Australian study found that having older brothers can delay the onset of puberty in girls. The more older brothers a woman has, the older she is when she gets her first period. So it may be that male relatives have some kind of dampening effect on the whole girl-to-woman thing.
  • Artificial light from computer screens and TVs is known to increase the speed of puberty.
  • And there's also a correlation between early puberty and some hair care treatments that contain placental products.
  • The onset of puberty is normally triggered by the hypothalamus - that area of the brain that helps control pituitary gland function – that signals the pituitary gland to release hormones that stimulate the ovaries in girls.
  • In rare cases, precocious puberty can be caused by a structural problem in the brain such as a tumor, brain injury, meningitis or other serious infection or a problem in the ovaries or thyroid gland that triggers the onset of puberty ahead of the normal time but of course these are all very unusual reasons.

You might like some background information on precocious puberty

The telltale signs of early puberty include the following at an early age – that is even before 7 or 8 years in girls:
  • Breast development
  • Pubic or underarm hair growth
  • A growth "spurt"
  • Onset of menstruation
  • Acne outbreaks
  • A "mature" body odor

When puberty ends, growth in height stops

So because their skeletons mature and bone growth stops at an earlier age than normal, girls with precocious puberty usually don't achieve their full adult height potential. Their early growth spurt may make them initially tall when compared with their peers, but they may stop growing too soon and end up at a shorter height than they would have otherwise.

There can also be emotional and social problems as girls may well be confused or embarrassed about physical changes such as getting their periods or having enlarged breasts well before any of their peers. Teasing and even bullying might also be experienced by such children.

Girls can become moody and irritable – something you would not normally expect until the teen years.




Kliegman RM, et al. Disorders of puberty. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. (Accessed, 5 October 2021).

Ferri FF. Precocious puberty. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2019. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. (Accessed, 5 October 2021).

Zitelli BJ, et al. Pediatric endocrinology. In: Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2018. https://www.clinicalkey.com. (Accessed, 5 October 2021).