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Families and Puberty

January 17, 2008

A supportive, positive home life may protect kids from early puberty.


How families extend childhood. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A positive family life might actually protect children from early puberty. This according to University of Arizona psychologist Bruce Ellis. He and University of Wisconsin psychiatrist Marilyn Essex studied 227 children and their families over several years. When the kids were about seven, the researchers looked for the earliest sign of puberty in both boys and girls: the development of the adrenal glands.

BRUCE ELLIS (University of Arizona):
More parental support or less marital conflict were each associated with later adrenal development. And that had not been actually studied before, in relationship to family environment.

They also found that girls from supportive homes got their first periods later than other girls. It’s all consistent with past evidence that childhood stress can speed up sexual development. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.