Australian researchers have published findings that dispute previous studies linking early puberty with greater likelihoods of young people developing mental health issues.
The report, recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, evaluated nearly 4,000 children in a longitudinal study. Over a seven-year timeframe, researchers collected both data about children’s maturation and questionnaires regarding behavior and social development from the children’s parents.
While researchers found that both boys and girls who began puberty at earlier ages experienced poorer social adjustment than their peers, the report notes these psychosocial patterns were frequently observed prior to the children reaching puberty, sometimes evident as early as ages 4 and 5.
In terms of behavioral difficulties, the researchers came to differing conclusions. For boys, those who experienced puberty earlier than others were found to display more behavioral problems than boys who reached puberty later, but for girls, there was no apparent link found between early puberty or adolescent behavioral problems.
“Children with early puberty have different patterns of behavior and social adjustment from the preschool years through early adolescence,” the report concluded. “At least in part, the association between early-onset puberty and poor mental health appears to result from processes under way well before the onset of puberty.”
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