Puberty is setting in
early, especially in girls, and expert fingers are pointing at the children's
It is saddening, shocking and a matter of great concern that the
number of children attaining puberty very early in life has increased. Some
girls are merely six or seven years old when they attain menarche. Coping with
menstrual periods is difficult in general and it is even more stressful when
very young kids start having periods.
'Puberty' is a term used to refer to body changes that heralds the
first signs of adolescence leading, eventually, to adulthood. These changes are
facilitated by chemical messages sent from the brain to the pituitary gland,
which is located at the back of the head. From the pituitary, it is conveyed to
the sex glands, which are the testes in males and the ovaries in females, which
in turn, produce sex hormones - testosterone and estrogens respectively. This
stage lasts for about four to five years before the onset of complete
adulthood. Usually, girls attain puberty earlier than boys.
Reaching puberty while still a child below ten years of age, can
pose many problems to the concerned child. First of all there are the physical
changes to cope with. Growing breasts and menstrual periods (in girls), facial
hair, breaking of voice (in boys) or pubic hair (both) are all normal in an
adolescent but very difficult for a very young child to cope with.
Besides, it does not help that these changes make them the butt of
jokes among their contemporaries. Also, they start behaving like teenagers
-moody, aggressive and with an attitude and it becomes quite a problem to deal
with them as most of them lack the mental maturity to cope with their raging
hormones. It is also very disturbing for parents and teachers to think that
their children have to deal with adult issues while still a child!
Statistics reveal that the onset of puberty in girls in 1860 was
16.6 years. By 1920 it was 14.6, in 1950, 13.1, in 1980, 12.5 and by 2010 it had
fallen to 10.5 years. An American study has discovered that boys were
attaining puberty earlier by two years on an average. For a White or a Hispanic
boy it is ten years while it is nine years for Black boy.
Marcia Herman-Giddens of the University of North Carolina where
the latest research was conducted says that obesity is capable of bringing about hormonal imbalance, and this may
be the reason for early puberty onset in some children.
Most of these children, who had attained puberty early, were over
weight, and many of them were big-time snackers. It is about time that we wake
up to the reality of what is happening around us and deal with the issue as it
should be dealt with.
Some researchers even feel that this situation
is like a time- bomb ticking in today's society. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle
is not just a requirement but is now the 'need of the hour!'