According to researchers, stress among youth associated with parental separation and absentee fathers may accelerate puberty.
The researchers at the John Moores University in Liverpool have found that the failure of politicians, teachers and at times parents in recognizing the physical and emotional changes in youth, accelerates their stress and results in poor physical and mental health.
According to them, there has been a steady decline in the onset of puberty in the last 150 years that has dropped 3 years in the last one century alone. Better nutrition and several public health measures are not just the only reasons. Stress due to parental separation and absentee fathers also have a major impact on it.
"But despite the younger age at which children reach puberty, there have been no attempts to develop young people faster, leaving an increasing gap between physical puberty (changes to their bodies) and social puberty (when they are able to make decision for themselves)", the researchers said.
"The results of society ignoring early puberty can be ill informed health damaging behavior, including unprotected sex, substance abuse, self harm, violence and bullying, with disadvantaged communities likely to be hit the hardest, " the researchers say.
"While society in general might prefer to ignore earlier puberty, the commercial sector certainly has not, drawing heavily on sexual imagery in their marketing to young teens. Such marketing is likely to reinforce the confusion caused by separated physical and social puberty, rather than providing the information necessary to deal with it", the researchers explained.
They said, "In the short term, responding to earlier puberty means moving away from societal attitudes that equate protecting children with regarding them as firmly ensconced in childhood long after their physical journey into adulthood has begun. "
"Such pretence, however well intentioned, simply denies them the vital information they require to complete this transition without damaging their health", the researchers added.
Their observations are published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.