05 Dec Puberty Can Affect How Teens Make Decisions
There are advantages to reaching puberty ahead of one’s peers. For boys it can mean being taller and stronger sooner, earning them admiration and respect while outperforming other boys on the athletic field. For girls it can mean feeling more grown-up than her girlfriends.
But a survey conducted by a research team at the University of Texas at Austin found that getting to puberty ahead of classmates can have downsides.
The team asked 6,892 boys and girls ages 11-17 to gauge their body’s pubertal development based on voice, facial hair, breast development, complexion, body hair and menstruation as compared to their peers.
The survey indicated that the kids who saw themselves as more grown-up were also more likely to have tried tobacco, marijuana or alcohol during the previous three months. They seemed to be more apt to adopt adult-like behavior than peers who didn’t view themselves as already maturing physically. This is helpful information for several reasons.
To begin with, it reveals just how vulnerable kids are to ads promoting alcohol and tobacco use as cool and grown-up behavior. The kids who see themselves as more mature may want to exhibit that maturity in ways that marketers promote.
The results are also important because it can inform medical care for girls who hit puberty early — they’ve been shown to experiment with sexual activity or drug use before girls behind them on the developmental curve. Research in 2005 found that the risk of sexual activity and pregnancy to early-maturing girls could be mitigated by alert physicians and nurses ready to confront these girls with some straight facts and kindly counsel.
Kids who start developing secondary sexual characteristics early face choices that they feel could reinforce their mature status. Because puberty is more than a biological or physiological benchmark — it has a social component as well.
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