Girls Hit Puberty at Younger Ages

Shirley S. Wang ( a Wall Street Journal correspondednt, reported on Monday the results of a research pointing at the  implications for the girls’ physical and mental health of the fact stated above. “By 8-years-old,” she stated, “more than 1-in-10 girls have already begun developing breasts, which marks the technical start of puberty for girls.” Her article is founded on a latest report in the Journal of Pediatrics. Although the findings varied by race (among 7-year-olds, about 10% of whites, 15% of Hispanics and 23% of blacks have some breast tissue) the conclusion is clear.

The study, conducted by the researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, included  1,239 girls. The results were compared with a similar study conducted in Denmark, 15 years ago, which concluded the same results for ages  between 10 and 11 years.

Frank Biro, the director of adolescent medicine at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and first author on the study, which was funded by several federal grants, was unable to conclusively state what factors contributed to this change. However, the doctors’ concern is mainly that of inadequate mental development compared to the physical advance, and  a possible greater risk of breast cancer – shifted to younger ages.

What we may derive from the study is that  lower self-esteem and poorer body image goes hand in hand with breast development in girls. On the one hand, greater demands are posed on girls who are perceived as  more mature, due in part to increased attention, teasing from peers, and sexual and emotional expectations incommensurate to their mental ripening.

Conversely, we conclude that insufficient breast development is the obverse side of the coin, in girls who are either less “fortunate” in this respect, where the peer pressure is from the other side,  or who are more mature mentally and their slower physical development does not correspond to their mental body image.

Needless to say that corrective cosmetic surgery in the latter case is much more than mere “cosmetics” and can have significant beneficial effects on the self-awareness, self-respect and thus also respect of the society to the individual – and her success in personal and professional life.

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