Boys – Not Just Girls – Starting Puberty Earlier

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Lots of moms I know have lately been talking about their daughters growing breasts at age nine or getting their period at eight years old (Kotex even has a line of maxi pads intended for eight-year-olds). I have yet to hear anyone discuss boys, though, and how they’re reaching puberty earlier than in previous generations. But a new study shows that boys may be reaching sexual maturity earlier than ever before.

Study author Joshua Goldstein, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, used mortality data to estimate a young man’s peak testosterone-driven phase of risky behavior. Goldstein discovered that boys have been maturing around 2.5 months earlier for each decade since the mid-1700s. “Being 18 today is like being 22 in 1800,” he says, attributing the causes of earlier maturity to improvement in nutrition and our ability to fight diseases (this applies to both boys and girls).

But since boys, unlike girls, don’t have clear-cut signs of starting puberty, Goldstein used what he calls the “accidental hump” to determine when boys go through puberty. That’s when testosterone production peaks and boys start partaking in more risky behavior, and so their chances of dying goes up (as mom to two boys, I hate reading this stuff!). Interestingly, Goldstein says technology – think guns and cars – hasn’t played a role in mortality rate for boys.

(Photo: Digital Vision)