Like girls, U.S. boys may be hitting puberty earlier
2012-10-22 0:00


Boys in the United States may be entering puberty earlier than in generations past, a new study has found, suggesting it’s not just girls who are developing at younger ages.

In comparisons with decades-old data, boys who were seen for well-child visits between 2005 and 2010 were maturing six months to two years sooner, based on their genital development.

The finding is significant for researchers seeking to understand why the age of puberty may be creeping down.

The discovery is also important for parents, who have to know how and when to discuss changing bodies with their children, according to the lead author of the study published online Saturday by the journal Pediatrics.

"They need to talk to their boys earlier than they would have thought about puberty and sexual development and all of those related issues," said Marcia Herman-Giddens at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Recent studies from the United States and elsewhere have shown that girls are maturing at a younger age, with many starting to develop breasts as early as age 7 or 8.

Doctors haven’t necessarily thought the same early puberty trend applied to boys. Some doctors blame estrogen-like chemicals in the environment for girls’ earlier development. Those same chemicals would be expected to delay sexual maturation in boys.

But even if boys are developing earlier than in the past, that doesn’t mean they are more mature socially and psychologically at younger ages, researchers said.

"Now there’s probably a bigger disparity between their physical maturation and their psychosocial maturation," said Dr. Frank Biro, head of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the new analysis.

"People are going to interact with them like they’re older," he told Reuters Health.


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