A study conducted by University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health reveals that boys, like girls, are hitting puberty sooner than ever. The study compiled information from 212 health care practitioners across the country, who reported physical changes of approximately four thousand boys, ages 6 to 16. Broken down by race, African-American boys now experience the onset of puberty at about 9 years of age, and non-Hispanic white and Hispanic boys experience the onset around the age of 10.
The lead author of the study, Marcia Herman-Giddens, is concerned that the changes are occurring too quickly. She notes that natural genetic changes would take hundreds or thousands of years, and that the acceleration of the onset of puberty is likely triggered by environmental factors that may include poor exercise habits, junk food, and/or chemical exposure.
Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group, stated “The overall concern is that by hastening puberty you’re actually shortening childhood.” She adds, “The real impact of this is not only on future fertility,” but also that puberty is a “physiological change in your brain.”
Though I did not find this information surprising, it is certainly interesting and raises questions about development, psychology, and law. It makes me curious if such early onset of puberty– specifically, the physiological and psychological effects it may bring– is already starting to affect the juvenile law, and if so, to what extent. Additionally, this phenomenon may further blur the line between who may be tried as a juvenile and who may be tried as an adult.
To read an article written about the study, click here.