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They grow up so fast: More troubling signs of early puberty in girls

Many girls are entering puberty at a very early age.
Many girls are entering puberty at a very early age.
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

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It’s been a discernable trend over the past several years: young kids, especially girls, are showing signs of entering puberty at younger ages. A new study out today focusing girls, published in the journal Pediatrics, finds that by 8-year-old more than 1-in-10 girls have already begun developing breasts, which marks the technical start of puberty. The findings track a trend identified by a number of studies, including a Danish study published last fall that found the average age of breast development fell by about a year compared with girls born 15 years earlier. There are plenty of medical reasons why early puberty is troubling for girls, and plenty of theorized causes: the health complications include higher instances of breast cancer and the possible causes run the gambit from higher rates of obesity to hormones in plastics. There are sociological implications as well, as young girls are increasingly sexualized. Is there a way to reverse the trend of early puberty in girls?


Dr. Louise Greenspan, pediatric endocrinologist at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center; author of study on early puberty, published in the journal Pediatrics

Julie Albright, sociologist of culture and communications at the University of Southern California (USC)