We’ve all (or at least those of us with daughters) heard about how girls growing up today are starting puberty younger than girls who came of age just a few generations ago. And we’ve all (whether we have boys or girls) heard about how boys are lagging behind girls in every measurable academic milestone, whether it’s grades, test scores, high-school graduation rates, college degrees, or professional degrees. But when it comes to puberty, it looks like boys may be closing the gap. And that may not be a good thing.
According to research just published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American boys may be starting puberty as much as two years earlier than doctors believed. For African-American boys, the process started on average at age 9; for Whites and Hispanics, at age 10.
While with girls, early puberty is cause for concern (it has been linked with in increased risk of developing breast cancer), no one is quite sure whether early puberty for boys is a problem. There’s some speculation that there could be an increase in testicular cancer risk, but that has yet to be proven.
It’s also unclear what exactly, is causing this earlier puberty. Is it our increasingly sedentary lifestyle? Higher rates of obesity? Exposure to toxins in our foods? No one can say for sure.
The one thing that is clear from all of this is that parents have to do a better job of talking to boys about what’s going on with their bodies. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a pretty rare nine- or ten-year old who’s mature enough to handle “becoming a man.”