Whereas during the mid nineteenth century the average age of attaining puberty in the United States was 17, now that age of girls reaching the age of puberty has dropped dramatically.
Now, one in seven Caucasian girls may develop characteristics of puberty such as pubic hair and breasts as early as age 8 and among African Americans that number is one in two!
Early onset puberty, which is also known as precocious puberty, is sexual maturation triggered by the brain or exogenous chemicals which could be caused due to genetic factors, hormone exposure or disease or the presence of a tumor or other serious problem.
Apart from the fact that early onset puberty may be very upsetting for parents, there can be many problems that stem from this condition:
Effect on Growth and maturation: Early Bone Maturation could mean that the growth is stunted by becoming pubescent early. Since the bones mature early, they will also stop growing earlier that they would otherwise, and this would typically result in reduced adult height.
Though a girl may have an initial growth spurt which causes her to outstrip her peers, it may result in her growth phase being shorter. This can also slow down brain development or cause it to end sooner since the brain also has less time to fully grow and mature.
Medical Problems: Early puberty means early and prolonged exposure to estrogen hormones, and the excess of this hormone has been linked to a myriad of menstrual and fertility problems. Increased risk of problems such as PMS and dysmenorrheal, uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome and several other conditions has been associated with early periods. There is also an increased risk of several kinds of cancer from early puberty.
Psychological Problems: When a girl attains puberty early she also develops physically and fills out that much earlier leading to the possibility of her being sexually harassed. This can in turn lead to different psychological problems such as depression, anxiety etc.
Boys and adult men may have an increased interest in a child who is pubescent earlier than her peers and girls in turn may be subject to sexual precocity thereby increasing chances of early pregnancy or contracting sexually transmitted disease.
Early puberty is caused by many numbers of different factors, such as genetics, being overweight or obese, xenoestrogens (chemical estrogens) and even infant formula. There is also one theory that attributed early puberty to a highly sexualized media which spurs on early puberty due to visual and other stimulus.