Children are going through puberty at an increasingly early age, and the changes to their bodies are also affecting their mental health, new research says.
Biological changes are happening earlier in children around the world – in 1860, the average age for European girls to develop breasts was 16.6 years. In 2010, the average age was 9.9 years, according to a United States study.
Other recent studies out of the US have found boys as young as 6 and girls as young as 8 showing the first signs of puberty.
An Australian study published yesterday has found that early puberty is associated with poorer mental health. It could also be why more people were suffering mental health problems later in life, Professor George Patton, of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, said.
The study also found that boys who started puberty before their ninth birthdays suffered from behavioural difficulties, but girls did not. …
The children who began puberty earlier also had poorer mental health when they were aged 4 or 5. Dr Mensah said this suggested the link between early puberty and poorer mental health was due to “developmental processes” that started early in life.