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According to a study published in Pediatrics, boys are entering puberty six months to two years earlier than they did in past studies. IStockphoto.Com hide caption
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It’s been known for a while that girls start puberty earlier than they did in the past, sometimes as young as 7 or 8. But it’s been unclear whether boys also go through puberty earlier. Now, a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics helps answer that question.
Marcia Herman-Giddens is a public health researcher at the University of North Carolina. She did the original studies looking at early puberty in girls. Now, she has replicated those studies with more than 4,000 boys. And the findings are similar: Boys are entering puberty six months to two years earlier than they did in past studies.
There are racial differences. Caucasian boys tend to begin puberty, on average, around 10 years old while African-American boys tend to begin puberty at 9.
As with girls, researchers don’t know why, but they have some ideas. Most have to do with the modern environment, starting with easy access to lots of food. “We have often talked about the problem of obesity and overweight, along with the easy availability of fast food, adding up to what some people call ‘overnutrition,’ or abundance of calories,” says Herman-Giddens.
For girls, being overweight has been linked to early puberty. And that could also be the case for boys. Another possible trigger for girls: estrogenlike chemicals in the environment. That hasn’t been proved — and it’s most likely not a cause for boys, because estrogen isn’t involved in the changes that come with puberty.
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