Several factors are most likely contributing at the same time. Many of these problems disproportionately affect lower-income families, the researchers say, which may partly explain racial disparities in the onset of puberty in the United States. .
A new normal?
For decades, medical textbooks have defined the stages of puberty using the so-called Tanner Scale, based on close observations between 1949 and 1971 of about 700 girls and children. boys living in orphanages in England.
The scale for determining normal puberty is at age 8 or older for girls and 9 years or older for boys. If puberty begins younger than those thresholds, doctors must screen children for a rare hormonal disorder called central precocious puberty, which can promote early puberty at an early age. Children with this disorder are often given brain scans and prescribed puberty-blocking drugs to delay sexual development until an appropriate age.
But some experts say the alarm age should be lowered. Otherwise, healthy children could be referred to specialists and undergo unnecessary medical procedures, which can be taxing and expensive, they say.
Dr Kaplowitz said: “There is a lot of data showing that age 8 is not the optimal threshold for distinguishing normal from abnormal. In 1999, he Debate that the normal age limit for puberty should be reduced to 7 years in white girls and 6 years in black girls. “It didn’t go too well,” he recalls.
That stance, though, is reinforced by a recent research Juul’s team showed that, of 205 pubertal children under 8 years of age who received brain scans, only 1.8% of girls and 12.5% of boys had brain abnormalities that showed central precocious puberty.
But lowering the age limit remains controversial, with many pediatricians arguing that the risk of developing the disorder remains large enough to justify additional precautions. Others, like Dr Herman-Giddens, say the changes are a sign of a legitimate public health problem and should not be accepted as normal.
Dr Herman-Giddens said: “It may be normal in the sense of what the data is showing, but I don’t think that’s normal, for lack of a better word, for what nature intended.”