Boys Hitting Puberty Sooner Than Ever


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http://timewellness.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/143176169.jpg?w=360&h=240&crop=1

While growing the first facial hair was a proud day in a boy's life, growing the first underarm hair was a dreaded day in a girl's life. Girls grow up faster than boys; physically and mentally. They mature at a younger age because they hit puberty first, starting as early as 9 years old. Boys on the other hand don't hit puberty till about 12-13 years old.  I remember it being so obvious in elementary school what level of maturity everyone was at. There were different types of maturity. While the boys were playing with sticks on the ground, the girls were mature in their own elementary school type of way.  We gossiped, changed groups of friends multiple times, and fought over boys. This is the type of "maturity" I think that many girls go through, and it forces them to become a woman at such a young age. Although this does not represent maturity in full, it does in part. "Growing up" can hold many connotations for people, and this is the puberty I was subjected to be around. Girls were more curious and more knowledgeable about "real life" in many ways. Boys still seemed to be concerned about who scored the goal during recess. Everyone's childhood is different; this is how I remember mine.

Puberty is around the age when men's and woman's bodies can start reproducing.  Hormones begin to change and the body begins to change; everyone goes through it.  While girls have always hit puberty at a younger age than boys, the tables are starting to turn! The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a study saying that boys are hitting puberty at a younger age than any time in history. Over the years, it has become a norm that girls are also reaching puberty at younger ages than before, but the fact that the same occurrence is happening in boys was never really examined until now. This could be a great or horrible thing for guys at that age; it could lead them to confidence or it could lead them to shame.

The American Academy of Pediatrics studied this topic using hundreds of doctor-patient records all over the country. According to Medical News Today, these doctors "contribute data for research on children's health." While this is great, it makes me question the confidentiality rule. When we go to the doctor, they tell us everything we say to them does not leave the room. I am wondering what age these patients are, if their parents gave permission for them to be used in research or if the doctors have the right to do it?

The study examined 4,100 boys aged 6-16 and the information was taken from 144 pediatrician clinics in 41 states. I am sure Dr. Read would deem this as a big enough sample size for an accurate conclusion to be made. In addition, the fact that the data came from 144 different clinics shows that the study was definitely replicated, a proponent of a worthy hypothesis.

Interestingly, the boys were studied using two factors; the growth of pubic hair and testicular size. These are both signs that a boy is hitting puberty, just as breast formation and pubic hair are also indicators for woman. The study concluded "boys are developing 6 months-2 years faster than history has previously shown."

Each of the boys was categorized on a scale of 1-5, according to CNN. "Stage 1 being pre-puberty, Stage 2 being the onset of puberty and Stage 5 being adult maturity." As uncomfortable as this might have been for the boys being tested, it is their cooperation that has helped us advance even further in this field.

We cannot conclude that there is one factor for why this is occurring. Nature vs. nurture? Is it genetics, the lifestyle you live, or a mixture of both? One aspect that has been studied that could possibly further research in why this is happening is race. African-American boys are shown to hit puberty faster than Whites and Hispanics. The average age for an African American boy is about 9.14 years old, while White boys hit at about 10.14 years old and Hispanics at 10.4 years old. This does show that puberty is in part because of genetics, but at the same it could also mean that boys are having to mature at a different rate because of the environment they live in. This raises the question whether puberty is solely physical, or can be reflected physically by factors that are happening mentally. For example, pretend a boy is growing up in a bad neighborhood where he has to mature at a very fast level. He is mentally maturing, but then he decided to learn how to defend himself so he starts hitting a punching bag on a regular basis. His body is maturing because he will start growing muscles, but at the same time his mind is maturing because he realizes he needs to learn how to defend himself. Examples like these are what have me conflicted between the physical/mental aspect. Although puberty is explained as a physical change, I believe this physical change could also occur because of outside forces. What do you guys think? 

http://byhealth.com/files/puberty.jpg

Researcher Herman-Giddes somewhat answered my question when saying that the changes have taken place too fast so it cannot be fully due to genetics, because a change in genes takes thousands of years. So it very well could be the environment! A good point they made was that obesity levels have rose in children dramatically, which could be related to the reason puberty levels have dropped in boys and girls. The new findings could also be linked to products we use in our everyday lives; hygiene products, food, drinking, smoking, etc. Everything we put into our bodies affects our bodies.

I wonder if this decreased age in puberty is present just in America or all around the world. Obesity is not an issue in other countries as it is here so much. What else do you think has changed in our generation that could be contributing to ages of puberty decreasing; in boys and girls? Now, that we are all in college, our puberty peak of the peak is over. However; do remember we still grow until our early twenties, so do not stop caring about your body because you think it won't change from here on out! It will!  

 

3 Comments

Interesting article, you mentioned food affecting our bodies, to expand on that, their are certain theories that the growth hormones in meat and milk products causes puberty to hit sooner, but this website only mentions that it effects women, but maybe they just didn't know it also effects men, there doesn't seem to be actually proof of this either, just theories, http://www.livestrong.com/article/98816-effects-growth-hormones/ that's the website. But i feel like if we really felt the effects of growth hormones in everything we eat then it's surprising that puberty doesn't hit way sooner and this is more noticable. Because literally almost everything we eat has growth hormones in it.

This study seems interesting but I think it should've included the age the kid's parents went through puberty. Is it possible that some of the subjects might be going through puberty early simply because their parents did? I can't find a lot on this topic online. I read the CNN article you posted and to add to your point about boys hitting puberty earlier, a study done by Marcia Herman-Giddens from the University of North Carolina's School of Public Health showed that boys are starting to develop 6 months to 2 years earlier than medical textbooks say is normal. I wonder why this is occurring!

This is interesting. I started looking into reasons why scientists think puberty is hitting children faster and found over 20 reasons, all of which seemed completely unrelated to each other. That is what leads me to think this is a texas sharp shooter problem, where scientists highlight certain correlations and leave out other information to make it look like data is conclusive. When you look at all of the different reasons this BBC article gives, I wonder if you'll agree:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4530743.stm
They make so many things seem like they are causing puberty, like over eating, being adopted into a wealthy family, having a distant relationship with your father (for girls), genetics, emigrating from india or colombia, watching too much television- its insane who many different theories there are.

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