We were all vaguely aware that kids reach puberty earlier now than in the past. Research from Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital puts shocking numbers to the trend.
In second grade (age 7) 23% of African American, 15% of Hispanic, and 10% of Anglo girls have started to develop. By third grade, almost half of African American girls and a third of Hispanic girls have entered puberty.
Why is this happening? It’s not crystal clear. However, experts point to two factors. First, more kids are heavy, and there seems to be a connection between being overweight and early sexual maturity.
Second, there are a number of common chemicals that mimic or interrupt human hormones. Some scientists speculate that low levels of exposure over time are upsetting hormonal balance and leading to early development.
What are the implications? Will parents recognize the issues with early sexual development and rally behind “right sizing” kids? Will this heat up the debate about how to control chemicals like BPA and phthalates? Should marketers rethink their target market and messages for products currently targeted at girls, teens, and young women? What do you think?