Problem-child behavior could result from early puberty in girls

Dec. 9, 2013 — Findings from a University of Alabama at Birmingham study published Dec. 9 in the journal Pediatrics show that adolescent girls who experience their first menstrual cycle prior to age 11 reported more delinquent and physically aggressive behavior.

By age 16, the effect of early puberty on physical aggression disappeared, but these girls still reported more delinquent behavior than those who did not experience early puberty.

“Delinquency and aggression put adolescents at risk for many negative outcomes in the future, including lower educational achievement, substance abuse, depression and problems in relationships,” explained the study’s lead author Sylvie Mrug, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Department of Psychology. “Thus it is important to understand how these problem behaviors develop and how pubertal timing and friends’ behavior — among other variables — contribute to them.”

Mrug and colleagues interviewed more than 2,600 girls and their parents three times between the ages of 11-16 to examine how early puberty onset and best friends’ problem behavior, like talking back to adults, lying, cheating and not being nice, contributed to delinquency and different types of aggression over time.

Girls who had a best friend with more problem behavior reported more delinquent and aggressive behavior at age 11, but these effects mostly dissipated by age 16.

“This suggests that negative peer influences from best friends at age 11 are short-lived, perhaps because best friends change as children enter middle school,” Mrug said. “The most interesting finding was that girls who experienced early puberty reported more delinquent behavior if their best friend was more deviant.”

The results suggest that early maturing girls are more vulnerable to negative peer influences.

“It is important for parents and other adults to monitor who the friends are and what the girls do with their friends,” Mrug said. “Of course this is important for all children and adolescents, but it may be even more critical for girls who mature early, as they are more vulnerable.”

Another result is that early puberty and best friends’ behavior at age 11 do not put girls on trajectories of long-term problem behaviors, according to Mrug.

“These influences can be short-lived, and this may give hope to families dealing with such issues,” she said.

Mrug says it is important to have more studies that follow girls and boys from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood to see how much different risk factors matter in the long-term. Further study is needed to examine other relevant risk and protective factors such as social support or parenting influences.

The sample of girls came from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, and results showed that most of the relationships between early puberty, friends’ behavior and aggression and delinquency are the same across race and ethnicity.

5 Responses to “Problem-child behavior could result from early puberty in girls”

  • unbleevable39:

    Out of curiosity I just want to know what you think about this because I’ve already read up on a very nice article that was written about TV and Magazines and what they can potentially do to a young woman’s mind and found that many whom watch women who are overly sexualised form a negative opinion of their gender. To be honest I have to some what. Teen aged girls are dressed so revealingly now days and yeah I would just like to know what you think. Most detailed answer gets best answer and if you could give me some sites with information that would be great.
    Dirt your site didn’t work! :(

  • Salam:

    Do adolescent girls sometimes get small, tender lumps right under their nipple? I read this once in my studies, but I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

    P.S. I know this is a very odd question, but my best friend has this problem, and she is worried it may be cancer, which is very unlikely. So I decided to ask this question for her to see if this is normal in adolescent girls.

  • Courtney:

    How well do adolescent girls understand their own bodies and puberty? What is an example of a current misperception of today’s young girls about their own bodies?

  • The Dark Knight:

    Wouldn’t the rate of infection be about the same for boys?
    Where is the study on that?


  • Xbox360king:

    I am a fifteen year old girl, and I don’t find him or his music remotely appealing. What makes girls like him so much??

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