Our Boys Are Hitting Puberty Earlier So You Better Soak Up Their Affection Now

My toddler had pneumonia this week – poor thing. The illness made my usually independent child incredibly needy. He sat on my lap all day, and could only seem to sleep if he was laying on top of my face. I mentioned to a friend that I had little time to get anything done because of all of this excess neediness, and she replied, Well, you better enjoy it now because once they hit puberty they want nothing to do with you!  I’m sure as the parent of a young child, you have heard the same warnings. Just wait until everything you do embarrasses them. My teenager won’t speak to me unless he needs his laundry done.

Statements like these give me bouts of separation anxiety and I spend hours staring at the child that still loves me. But I can always take solace in the fact that he is two, and I probably have at least another decade of love and affection coming my way.


A new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics has uncovered that boys are experiencing the onset of puberty six months to two years younger than previous studies reported. An earlier onset of puberty in girls has been widely reported and studied – but boys?

 The study, widely considered the most reliable attempt to measure puberty in American boys, estimates that boys are showing signs of puberty six months to two years earlier than was reported in previous research, which historically taught that 11 ½ was the general age puberty began in boys. But experts cautioned that because previous studies were smaller or used different approaches, it is difficult to say how much earlier boys might be developing.

The study echoes research on girls, which has now established a scientific consensus that they are showing breast development earlier than in the past.

I was very comfortable with the fantasy that my child would be a late-bloomer and still be into GI Joe and The Incredible Hulk in junior high. Now it looks like I may be looking forward much sooner to things like dropping him off around the corner from school and never getting a public display of affection again.

The findings about what is causing this earlier onset are not totally conclusive – so there isn’t much commentary about whether this is healthy for our children, or if we are doing anything as parents to contribute to this trend.

 ”It was an important study to do, and their methodology is improved over prior studies in that they based their assessment of puberty in boys on what I consider to be the gold standard: the size of the testicles,” said Dr. Laura Bachrach, a professor of pediatric endocrinology at Stanford University.

But the study should not prompt a magazine ”cover article that shows a 9-year-old boy shaving,” Dr. Bachrach said. And because some parents fear that early puberty is related to more hormones in milk ”” speculation that is unproven ”” ”I don’t want people to get up in arms and rush out and buy organic milk,” she said. ”When patients ask me, I say, ”˜Do that for political reasons or because you like the taste, but don’t do it because you think it’s going to influence puberty.’ ”

So, just to recap: your child is probably going to be annoyed by you sooner than you thought, but don’t go stocking up on expensive organic milk until more research is done.

(photo: Goodluz/Shutterstock.com)

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