|Age of puberty among boys dropping in U.S., study finds|
|Monday, October 22, 2012|
Boys in the United States appear to be entering puberty much earlier than in the past – a trend researchers caution may have important medical, psychosocial, public health and environmental implications, according to a new study.
She said these two maturation processes rarely stay in sync, and early physical maturation only extends the period during which only one area of the person has developed. It’s not until late adolescence or early 20s before individuals develop mature judgment and cognitive abilities.
The study results underscore the need for parents, medical providers, public health officials, environmental researchers, school personnel and others to recognize the apparent shift to earlier puberty and how that may impact health, she said. In particular, clinicians may consider the findings when making decisions about further evaluation or referral of boys for apparent early or late onset of development.
Researchers studied secondary sexual characteristics in 4,131 boys at well-child visits in 144 pediatric offices in 41 states between 2005 and 2010. Boys ranged in age from 6 to 16 years. Boys with chronic conditions or medications that could affect puberty were excluded from the study.
The study was conducted through the AAP Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS), practice-based research network, a system of hundreds of pediatricians nationwide who contribute data to AAP-led scientific studies on children’s health.
A 1997 PROS study by Herman-Giddens and colleagues was the first large study to document earlier pubertal onset in U.S. girls. Until now, little information has been available about contemporary boys’ onset of puberty because boys are harder to study and there has been less interest in the topic. To ensure accurate data, measurement of early testicular growth is required, which is not normally part of a well-child exam.
Co-authors of the Pediatrics report are Michael Hussey, doctoral student in biostatistics at UNC Gillings School of Public Health; Jennifer Steffes, Donna Harris and Eric Slora, Ph.D., from the AAP; Steven A. Dowshen, M.D., from the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children; Richard Wasserman, M.D. from AAP and University of Vermont; Janet R. Serwint, M.D., from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Academic Pediatric Association; Lynn Smitherman, M.D. from Wayne State University School of Medicine and the National Medical Association; and Edward O. Reiter, M.D., of Tufts University School of Medicine.
Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Linda Kastleman, (919) 966-8317,