Girls usually undergo the process of puberty between the ages of 9 and 16, with majority of the girls noticing the changes they are going through at the age of 11 to 13. During puberty, a girl could experience various physical and emotional changes (Terrence Higgins Trust, 2008).
However, recent researches show that the beginning of maturation among girls is happening much earlier compared to what the previous researches have recorded. According to studies, the average breast development for African American girls begin at the age of 8. 9, while for their White counterparts, the development begins at the age of 10. The development of pubic hair occurs at the age of 8. 8 for African American girls and 10. 5 for the white girls (Collins, 2001).
Aside from the data which indicate the early maturation among girls could be a ground for psychological distress, it was also discovered that the early maturing girls are at a high risk of increased sexual attention from older men and boys even before they are emotionally and psychologically prepared for such approaches (Eccles & Appleton, 2002).
Because early maturation promotes physical changes, this process also shortens the time when girls are able to be carefree. As such, the girls are spending much of their time worrying about their periods (Dougherty, 1997). In a study carried out by Magnusson and Stattin (1990) participated by Swedish girls who experienced early maturation, it was revealed that majority of the girls obtained less education and married earlier compared to their later-maturing counterparts (cited in Eccles and Appleton, 2002).
The study also concluded that early-maturing females are more likely to be recruited by older peers and develop relationships with older men. By the time that these girls get older, they are more likely to stop schooling and get married instead. This is because for the peers that they belong to, school achievement is not highly regarded, and early entry to jobs and marriage are seen as far more important (Magnusson, 1988; Stattin and Magnusson, 1990 cited in Eccles and Appleton, 2002).
Likewise, in a study participated by early-matured girls age 10 to 13, it was indicated that those who have relationships with older males are more likely to be sexually experienced and at one point have experienced unwanted sexual advances from other males compared to the girls who have same-age boyfriends (Collins, 2001). It should be noted that early-matured girls are also capable of becoming pregnant. Thus, the stakes are high that these girls who engage in sexual relationships are more likely to get pregnant even before they are totally mature.
In 1992 alone, it was reported that approximately 12,200 babies were born from girls who underwent early maturation (i. e. , between the ages of 10 to 14), and most of the fathers of these babies were in their 20’s (Dougherty, 1997). Apparently, early-maturation among girls puts them at high risk of physical harm. Because they are already physically mature in spite of their emotional and cognitive immaturity, they are more likely to group themselves among older peers whom they think would better understand them.
Moreover, since they are physically developed, they are more susceptible to sexual advances from older males which often result in early pregnancy. There is no way of preventing early-maturity. However, the physical harm would be lessened if there would be concerted efforts from older individuals to educate early-matured girls about the risk that involves their early maturation. Furthermore, it is an imperative for parents, communities, and schools to provide young women with comprehensive information and programs that would aid them in going through early maturation with proper guidance and care.
References Collins, C. (October 2001). Girls and Sexual health. New York, NY: Girls Incorporated Organization. Dougherty, A. (1997). Girls growing up. Bryn Mawr College. Retrieved October 9, 2008 from http://www. brynmawr. edu/Alumnae/bulletin/girls. htm. Eccles, J. & Appleton, J. (2002). Community Programs to Promote Youth Development. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Terrence Higgins Trust. (2008). Girls. Retrieved October 9, 2008 from http://www. tht. org. uk/informationresources/sexandsexuality/puberty/femalepuberty/.