Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Prematurely mature

If you think little girls today are looking more and more grown up, sophisticated and sexualized, it may be more than just their clothes or their MTV-spawned attitude. Endocrinologists are finding that girls are starting puberty at younger and younger ages, sprouting breasts and pubic hair as early as age 7. Previously, those physical changes weren't seen until around 10.

The theories for this precipitous onset range from fat (today's kids are more apt to be overweight, and that can increase the production of hormones) to lack of exercise (think about how asexual all those ballerinas and gymnasts are well into their teen years) to chemical pollutants (plastic byproducts called phthalates are suspected culprits). And the concerns are that all these early bloomers may attract attention from older kids and adults that they have no idea how to handle or even understand.

If the thought of second-graders with cleavage is disturbing to you, it...well, I have to selfishly admit that it's not so disturbing to me. In fact, secretly, I'm glad to hear it. It means that my two-grades-behind daughter, now a 10-year-old in 3rd grade, will not be the only kid in class with breasts. Since the age of menstruation is holding fast at 12 or 13, she may be the first to go through that transition, but at least she doesn't look freakishly more mature than all of her classmates.

The sad thing is, she's a couple of years away from full puberty, and she already has a bigger chest than me. I wonder if I could get me some of those phthalates?

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