For those who have the joy of being parents, watching children grow up is perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of the job. In the case of having boys, it is watching them grow from little tykes into maturing teenagers. One thing that many parents comment on now though is how children seem to be growing up faster than when they were kids. Some might think that is just individual perspective, but a new study tells a different story.
This study, which can be found in the October 20 journal Pediatrics, tells a story that shows that parents are not off base in their claims of earlier development. It is a somewhat shocking discovery, but one that might have been predictable, given other studies that showed girls arriving at puberty earlier. What this latest study has done is bring this reality to the forefront, especially for parents.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers studied data from 144 pediatric practices, which dealt with over 4000 male subjects. The ages of these boys varied between 6 and 16, and found that changes in their genitals were occurring somewhere between 9 and 10 years old. This then led to pubic hair beginning within a year after this. If those ages seem young, it is because they are, when compared to comparable data from other time periods.
When examining data from 1950 through the 1970s, the age of these significant changes coming were typically two years later. What does this mean for the young boys? It means overwhelming change is arriving earlier on in their lives. The problem with this is that the body is maturing faster, but the mental maturity is not. Young boys are being asked to handle these significant changes during a time when they would much rather be out playing sports or hanging out with friends. It can become a very stressful time for a young boy.
What is causing this quickening of the male puberty timeline? Researchers cannot be sure, but there is real concern that it is not something positive that is setting off the acceleration. There has been a rise in the childhood obesity rate, leaving some to wonder if that is playing a role. Is it something chemical in the air or food products that are causing the change? The people doing the study cannot discount that as a possibility.
For parents, it means having to move up the time of that uncomfortable talk they dread. That is the conversation about the birds and the bees, where parents try to explain to an impressionable kid what is going on with their bodies. It used to be that they could almost wait until they reached teen years before sitting down to talk. Now, this important conversation could be happening before their son turns a double-digit age.