Impacts of family structure on puberty onset in girls

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Girls who do not live with both parents from birth to two years of age may be at higher risk of reaching puberty at a younger age than girls who live with both parents. This is evident from research published in the open access journal BMC Pediatrics. The authors suggest that their results support the hypothesis that stress in early life can affect the onset of puberty. According to the authors, the risk of an early onset of puberty could possibly be reduced by measures to improve the wellbeing of children.

A team of researchers at Kaiser Permanente’s research division in Northern California, USA, found that girls who did not live with both parents from birth to age two were 38% more likely to start their periods before age 12 than girls who did both parents lived together. Girls who did not live with both parents between the ages of two and six were 18% more likely than girls whose parents lived together to start their periods before age 12.

Ai Kubo, the corresponding author, said, “Stress before the age of two can have a greater impact on the onset of puberty than stress in older children. Early puberty is associated with an increased risk of mental and emotional problems during puberty The early Onset of puberty carries an increased risk of various conditions such as heart disease and breast and uterine cancer. For the purposes of this study, we looked at coexistence with one or two parents to assess the potential stress a young girl might experience as a guide for health care interventions to identify and support girls who may be at greater risk of early puberty. “

The authors also found that girls who did not live with both parents from birth to the age of two were 29% more likely to start developing breasts earlier and 21% more likely to start developing pubic hair earlier as girls who lived with both parents. Girls who did not live with both parents between the ages of two and six developed breasts and pubic hair 13% more often than girls who lived with both parents.

To study family structure and the onset of puberty in girls, the authors used electronic health records from girls born between 2003 and 2010 in the Kaiser Permanente healthcare system in Northern California. Of the 26,044 girls included in the study, 2,034 (8%) lived with one parent before the age of two and 2,186 (8%) with one parent between the ages of two and six.

The authors observed that the risk of earlier onset of puberty varied by race and ethnic background. Of all black, white, and Latin American girls included in the study, approximately 30%, 5.6% and 9.6% lived in a single-parent household before the age of two. Black, white, and Latin American girls who lived with one parent before the age of two were 60%, 24%, and 30% more likely to develop breasts than girls of similar ethnicity who lived with both parents. Girls who were black or white and lived with one parent between the ages of two and six were 44% and 21% more likely to start breast development early than girls who lived with both parents. Latinx girls raised by a single parent between the ages of two and six were more likely to not start breast development early than girls who lived with two parents. According to the authors, the BMI of girls had no significant influence on the relationship between life in a household with only one parent and the earlier onset of puberty. However, other factors such as socioeconomic status, perceived stress, or adverse events in childhood can further explain the differences.

The authors suggest that uncertainty about infant attachment – the lack of a positive bond between the infant and caregiver – could be a mechanism by which girls who live in households with only one parent before the age of two have an earlier onset of puberty experience.

Ai Kubo said, “Previous research has shown that infants living in single-parent households are more likely to have attachment insecurity than infants living in two-parent households, and girls with insecure attachment are more likely to have early puberty also likely to end puberty earlier. “

The authors caution that since data was extracted from electronic health records, detailed information on family structure is available, reasons for having only one parent in the household – such as divorce, single parent choice, or incarceration – food intake, physical activity, and the age of the die mother’s first period was not available. While the authors checked household income at the neighborhood level at birth, later changes of address and thus changes in the quality of the neighborhood that might have occurred during the girl’s childhood were not taken into account. Future research, including other factors such as household income or neighborhood that may be independent causes of stress in children, should examine the potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between family structure and early puberty.

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More information:
“Household integrity in early life and onset of puberty in girls: a prospective cohort study” BMC Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1186 / s12887-020-02345-w Provided by BioMed Central

Quote: Effects of the family structure on the onset of puberty in girls (2020, October 27), accessed on October 28, 2020 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-10-impacts-family-puberty-onset-girls. html

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