For Release: April 7, 1997
5 p.m. (ET)

Below is a highlight of a study published in the April issue of Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). To receive the full text of these studies and interview contact information, please contact the AAP Division of Public Relations at [email protected] and ask for C505.


CHICAGO--American girls are showing signs of puberty sooner than expected, according to a new study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The study was done by 225 practicing pediatricians around the country who belong to Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS), the practice-based research network of the AAP. The pediatricians analyzed data for more than 17,000 girls between ages 3 and 12.

"Our study found that girls seen in pediatric office practices are developing pubertal characteristics at younger ages than suggested in standard pediatric textbooks and in earlier U.S. studies," the studys authors say.

These new findings are important because physicians use age guidelines to detect growth and development problems, and to provide appropriate anticipatory guidance and patient education. The study shows that secondary sexual characteristics (pubic hair and/or breast development) are found in 14.7 percent of white girls and in 48.3 percent of African-American girls between their eighth and ninth birthdays. Even between their seventh and eighth birthdays, 6.7 percent of white girls and 27.2 percent of African American girls had evidence of pubertal development.

The current commonly used figure for these findings is that only 1 percent of girls under age 8 have such characteristics. The studys authors say the new data may signal a need for physicians to take account of racial differences when assessing female patients and may also prompt schools to revise the timing of sex education programs. While signs of puberty are appearing at an earlier age, the average age at which American girls begin to menstruate (12.5 years) has not significantly changed over the past 40 years.


EDITORS NOTE: This study was published in the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, but does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the Academy. The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 53,000 pediatricians dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.