Girls hitting puberty earlier, and we're not sure why.

Kara Powell | Apr 14, 2011

As a youth leader and a mom of 2 daughters, I’m always interested in research about girls. (As a youth leader and a mom of a son, I’m also interested in research about boys, which I guess makes me pretty interested in research overall.)

I was intrigued by this recent article about girls hitting puberty earlier. A few of the paragraphs most interesting to me are:

“About 15% of American girls now begin puberty by age 7, according to a study of 1,239 girls published last year in Pediatrics. One in 10 white girls begin developing breasts by that age twice the rate seen in a 1997 study. Among black girls, such as Laila, 23% hit puberty by age 7.”

“Researchers don’t completely understand why the age of puberty is falling, Herman-Giddens says. Most agree that several forces are at work, from obesity to hormone-like environmental chemicals. There’s no evidence that boys are maturing any earlier, says Paul Kaplowitz, author of Early Puberty in Girls.”

Although we don’t know why it’s happening, a few implications come immediately to mind:

-Those of us in youth ministry need to share this information with children’s ministry leaders.

-We can also share this information with parents in our ministry, who might be surprised and perplexed by what is happening to their girls.

-Those of us who are youth leaders can think about ways to serve and connect with girls on their own, as well as guys on their own. This past week, our high school ministry did 2 different retreats: Mancamp for the guys and a Girls Retreat for the girls. I wasn’t able to go but everyone who did came back buzzing about how great it was to talk about issues of identity and relationships with just girls, or just guys.

-For those of us who are parents, how can we carve out time to be with our kids one on one to create time to talk about issues that they might not want to talk about in the whole family? My 2 daughters love it when we have “Powell girl time,” even if it’s just for an hour.


Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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