Study: Early puberty may cause health problems

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 knowtheir body, but can you imagine having to learn those things at 8 instead of atwelve year old," said clinical psychologist, Dr. Dana Watson with Families Inc. in Trumann.

"Girls who enter puberty early can be confused andoverwhelmed by the stressors that they encounter when their bodies are changing and theiremotions are changing," she said. "The physical and emotional changes can lead to socialand 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 earlypuberty had behavior problems that they could document as early as 5 and 6-years-old.

"In the past we thought that social problems, emotionalproblems or behavioral problems were typical for adolescents going throughpuberty," 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 inthe body, hormone imbalances, one factor for girls is the age that their motherstarted puberty,"she said. The study also highlighted some of the problems the kids a part of the study werefacing.

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

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

"They have somany changes that are occurring hormonally, physically and emotionally that oftenthey are not prepared for those challenges."

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

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

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