Penn State Logo We just saw a recent study which disclosed that the age of boys attaining sexual maturity seems to be tapering. Now, according to scientists at the Penn State, Duke University, and the University of California, children who encounter an accelerated puberty phase may be likelier to suffer from anxiety and depression.

The analysis essentially guides health care professionals, parents and guardians to not just keep a tab at the timing of puberty but also the pace of this period. They are touted to check how fast or slow their child goes through puberty.

“Past work has examined the timing of puberty and shown the negative consequences of entering puberty at an early age, but there has been little work done to investigate the effects of tempo. By using a novel statistical tool to simultaneously model the timing and tempo of puberty in children, we present a much more comprehensive picture of what happens during adolescence and why behavior problems may ensue as a result of going through these changes,” remarked Kristine Marceau, a Penn State graduate student and the study’s primary author.

As part of the study, the team created a unique nonlinear mixed-effects model that included information from 364 white boys and 373 white girls that was a part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. The data was inclusive of breast and pubic hair growth in girls and boys with genital and pubic hair development as inspected by nurses. They also checked the height and weight of both the sexes. It also involved behavioral issues that these young boys and girls face as well as hazardous sexual actions reported by children.

It came to light that girls reaching puberty earlier seemed to experience a host of behavioral conditions. Those facing a faster tempo of growth also appeared to face similar problems. For girls, timing and tempo were mutually exclusive while for boys there was a strong link between these 2 variables. It was found that boys having a later timing coupled with slower pace apparently showed minimum of externalizing and acting out their problems.

According to Marceau, when major changes of puberty tend to happen in a short period of time, adolescents are seemingly not ready to face them. Children are also known to compare their condition with peers in matters of sexual maturity that appears to put them at a risk of depression and other externalizing problems. The team also plans to gauge the influences of puberty tempo on women’s health in the long run. Some findings suggest that early timing may cause reproductive cancers in women. One such contributing factor is estradiol which an early maturer is seemingly exposed to for a longer time. Does this hold true for tempo of puberty as well is what the authors wish to know in future studies.

The findings are published in the September issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.