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Childhood Stress Hastens Puberty, Support Falls Behind

As the age to enter puberty continues to decline, authorities believe stress, such as that brought on by parental separation and absentee fathers, is the contemporary agent driving the early body changes. Although the biological and mental changes accompanying adolescence occur at an earlier age, support for the life transformation lags.

The failure of politicians, teachers and often parents to acknowledge these physical and emotional changes only adds to teenagers’ stress and leads to poor physical and mental health among this age group say researchers in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

stressed_girlThe authors from Liverpool John Moores University Centre for Public Health, say that the onset of puberty has been steadily falling for the past 150 years, and has dropped three years within the past century alone, as a result of public health measures and improved nutrition.

But it is also due to stress, with parental separation/divorce and absentee fathers “one of the most effective stressors,” they write. Rates of divorce and single parenthood have rapidly increased in many countries, they say.

But despite the younger age at which children reach puberty, there have been no attempts to develop young people faster, “leaving an increasing gap between physical puberty [changes to their bodies] and social puberty [when they are able to make decisions for themselves],” they write.

“The results can be ill informed health damaging behavior,” they say, including unprotected sex, substance abuse, self harm, violence and bullying, with disadvantaged communities likely to hit the hardest.

While society in general might prefer to ignore earlier puberty, the commercial sector certainly has not, drawing heavily on sexual imagery in their marketing to young teens, say the authors.

“Such marketing is more likely to reinforce the confusion caused by separated physical and social puberty rather than providing the information necessary to deal with it,” they write.

“In the short term, responding to earlier puberty means moving away from societal attitudes that equate protecting children with regarding them as firmly ensconced in childhood long after their physical journey into adulthood has begun,” contend the authors.

“Such pretence, however well intentioned, simply denies them the vital information they require to complete this transition without damaging their health,” they conclude.

The article in full may be found at this url:

Source: British Medical Journal

Childhood Stress Hastens Puberty, Support Falls Behind

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Childhood Stress Hastens Puberty, Support Falls Behind. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 27 Jun 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jun 2016
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