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Early Puberty for Girls: Causing More Harm than Good?

best-friends-381984_1280Puberty for girls is occurring earlier and earlier within our society.  Girls are going through bodily changes in the third and fourth grade compared to the fifth and sixth grade. While some girls at this age may not be experiencing puberty yet, it is not uncommon for them to have classmates or friends who are. Going through early puberty for girls creates multiple mental health risks.

A lack of mental maturity makes it difficult for young girls to understand and cope with the changes they are going through. A recent article by The New York Times discusses a study that believes early puberty for girls may be increasing the risk of depression.

Reactions to Puberty for Girls

Being a teenage girl is challenging enough, let alone going through drastic bodily and emotional changes. Girls who start puberty early – age 8 instead of 13 – face more challenges with handling physical changes because they are more childlike in their knowledge, cognitive development, and emotional understanding of what goes on around them. Puberty for girls also has effects on social and cultural context. When early puberty for girls occurs, it changes the way that people view and treat them. Puberty for girls creates physical changes in appearance and emotional maturity. Girls start to look differently, making it harder for them to maintain relationships with peers who have not gone through puberty.

The Negative Effects of Early Puberty

Early puberty for girls has led to girls being harassed and victimized by their peers. Dr. Jane Mendle states that early puberty for girls is associated with more than depression. Anxiety, disordered eating, and self-injury are also large risks connected with early puberty for girls. Before puberty, depression occurs at roughly the same rate in both sexes, but once puberty for girls reaches its midpoint, girls become two and a half times more likely to become depressed than boys.

The Study

To test the theory that early puberty for girls increases the risk of depression, researchers looked at the relationship between the age at which children began the physical transitions of puberty and the likelihood of depression in those children throughout adolescence. They found that girls who had earlier breast development had a much higher risk of depressive symptoms, but did not see similar effects for boys’ physical transitions. The premature start of breast development in girls was connected with a higher risk of depression in early adolescence even after controlling many other factors, including socioeconomic status and the weight of parents’ marital status.

How to Help Your Child

The discussion about puberty for girls, is an essential part of making sure they feel educated and comfortable about the changes that will occur to their bodies. Children do better when they have stable and healthy relationships with their parents and peers. Making these topics open for discussion, allows them to feel comfortable to ask questions or seek guidance. Educating your child on puberty makes it easier for them to maintain stable relationships with their peers because they will know what they are experiencing or what may be happening around them.

Asheville Academy is here to help

If your child has trouble communicating with others, it might be a good idea to get her professional help. Asheville Academy is one of the top residential treatment centers for girls, ages 10-14, struggling with issues like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. Taking place in an environment similar to a therapeutic boarding school,  we will strive to help your family work through this difficult period and move your daughter towards a healthier future.  

For more information about Asheville Academy for Girls, contact us today at 800.264.8709

 

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