Study: Early puberty may cause health problems - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Study: Early puberty may cause health problems

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TRUMANN, AR (KAIT)-  A recent study found children who go through puberty early are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems.

The Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne  found that 16 percent of girls and 6 percent of boys go through puberty as young as 8-years-old.

The study examined 3,500 children for nearly six years and found the girls had more emotional problems while the boys had behavioral problems.

"It's just really a process of everybody getting to know their body, but can you imagine having to learn those things at 8 instead of a twelve year old," said clinical psychologist, Dr. Dana Watson with Families Inc. in Trumann.

"Girls who enter puberty early can be confused and overwhelmed by the stressors that they encounter when their bodies are changing and their emotions are changing," she said. "The physical and emotional changes can lead to social and behavioral changes as well."

Watson said boys tend to externalize their feelings and be more aggressive while acting out behaviorally.

The study took place in Australia where researchers found the children going through early puberty had behavior problems that they could document as early as 5 and 6-years-old.

"In the past we thought that social problems, emotional problems or behavioral problems were typical for adolescents going through puberty," Watson said.

But many might wonder, what  exactly triggers puberty to begin at a young age.

"They probably have to do with actual chemical changes in the body, hormone imbalances, one factor for girls is the age that their mother started puberty,"she said. The study also highlighted some of the problems the kids a part of the study were facing.

"Difficulty playing with other children, school behavior problems, boys active more aggressively than boys and the girls tended to have more emotional problems like irritability or moodiness,"Watson said.

Watson said kids going through those changes at such an early age can leave them feeling overwhelmed.She said kids become especially vulnerable during that time.

 "They have so many changes that are occurring hormonally, physically and emotionally that often they are not prepared for those challenges."

Although a lot of factors are still unknown, Watson said parents can help by providing their child with the right information.

"The ultimate goal is to help children identify social and behavioral resources that they can use to cope with the challenges of puberty in general and especially early puberty," she said.

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