Kids are hitting puberty earlier and it could lead to early alcohol and drug use. Puberty is a hard transition for any kid, but when you’re younger than the average it can be even more difficult. Your body may be maturing in adult ways, but you still process things as a kid. Impulse control is still developing, and will continue to until around age 20.
Someone in their early teens with the physical maturity of an adult may think he or she needs to act more like an adult, which can lead to risky behavior like sex, drinking or drug experimentation. If you have a teenager with an addiction issue, call Legacy Freedom of Wilmington. We offer the best outpatient drug rehab in Wilmington NC.
Cases of Early Puberty
A 2000 study from Pediatrics found that among 12,000 American girls, many of them began puberty at age 7. The breakdown shows that 23 percent of African American girls, 15 percent of Hispanic girls and 10 percent of Caucasian girls showed signs of puberty at seven years old.
Another study by the same publication found that American boys were starting puberty six months or two years earlier than research indicated from previous years, particularly among African American children.
Most kids start undergoing changes that signal puberty between the ages of 10 and 13. There are two types of precocious puberty. One happens when the hypothalamus begins sending signals to the pituitary gland to produce the hormones estrogen and testosterone. These hormones are responsible for the changes in the body that occur during puberty. There is another type that occurs when those hormones are reproduced from the ovaries or testicles without the signal from the pituitary gland. It could be because of a tumor or it could be genetics.
Early onset puberty has obvious physical effects, such as development of body hair for both sexes, and the development of breasts and start of menstruation for girls. There are psychological effects of early puberty, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Research has also found that it can predict early experimentation with sex, drug use and drinking.
Possible Causes of Early Puberty
There is no definitive answer for why kids are starting puberty earlier, but there are several theories. It could be an evolutionary response to environment. For instance, in a 2007 study published by Child Development, researchers found that girls who had little parental support, depressed fathers and parents who had marital problems were likely to experience early puberty compared to children who didn’t have those factors at play.
Diet could also be a factor. It has been long theorized that the hormones in meat and dairy products cause children to develop early, but a recent study found that sugar could be another reason. The group looked at 5,600 girls from 9-14 and found that those who had more than 1.5 servings of soda and other sweetened drinks began menstruating three months earlier than the girls who had fewer sugary drinks.
Some theorize that the chemicals in plastics we use every day could also cause hormones to become disrupted. Bisphenol A (BPA), is a chemical that can act like a synthetic estrogen, is found in many plastic items including toys, pacifiers and water bottles. It is suggested that this chemical, which is often introduced to babies as soon as they are born, could throw off the hormonal balance and cause puberty to occur earlier.
Early Puberty Linked to Early Substance Abuse
Children who reach puberty early are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as trying drugs and alcohol. There have been several studies that have used data and surveyed young people to see what factors may cause them to try these substances sooner than their peers.
A 2013 study by the University of Texas at Austin found that when girls and boys feel more mature, which can happen when they hit puberty and begin to develop, they may engage in what they consider adult behavior, which includes drinking, smoking and sex.
Researchers studied 6,500 boys and girls from 11 to 17 about what they thought of their appearance in regard to maturity, which included questions about their body hair, vocal changes, height, skin, and in girls, breast growth and menstruation. The participants who perceived themselves as physically mature had also tried cigarettes, marijuana or alcohol in the previous three months. This matched a previous study that had found that girls who hit puberty earlier than their peers were more likely to try drugs and have sex. If you find that your son or daughter needs help with addiction, call Legacy Freedom for affordable alcohol and drug rehab in Wilmington NC.
One researcher noted that it is important for parents to remember that puberty is not just a biological process. It is a combination of psychology and social processes that can affect a teen’s behavior.
As with most research, the findings do not prove a cause and effect relationship, but the association is enough to garner concern.
What Parents Can Do
Parents with kids who are going through puberty at an early age should look for signs that their child is struggling with the changes. They should also consider what they are portraying to them as “adult” behavior.
A study done in 2012 in the Netherlands looked at children and their perceptions about drinking. Researchers followed 1,268 teens from 13-14 for three years. They found that the kids were influenced by their peers, but they were also affected by how their parents viewed alcohol. Teens who had early puberty seemed to have parents who were less strict about alcohol. Teens also thought that their peers drank more if they had started puberty early.
You can’t control biology, but you can control environment to an extent. Researchers of that study said it was important for parents to set rules about alcohol consumption and to not change them as their kids get older. The study found that there was a 20 percent decrease in risk of a teen drinking alcohol when the parents tightened up their rules about alcohol.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol abuse suggests that parents keep the lines of communication open and offer positive reinforcement for healthy behavior. They also say to monitor your child’s activities so you know what they are doing and who they are spending time with. Another strategy is to provide consistent discipline and rules that are enforced every time.
Kids and teens should be made aware of the dangers of drug and alcohol use so they can make good decisions later on. Education and leading by example are two of the best preventive measures when it comes to keeping kids off drugs.
Dependable Drug Rehab in Wilmington NC for Teens | Legacy Freedom
If your teenage son or daughter is suffering from an addiction and needs help, call us at Legacy Freedom Treatment Center in Wilmington, NC. We offer personalized treatment programs to meet our patients’ needs. We have many forms of alternative therapies available that you won’t find anywhere else! We can also help people of all ages who are suffering from addiction. Know that Legacy Freedom also offers family support so that you can learn how to help your loved one during treatment. Give us a call today to learn more about the best alcohol treatment and drug rehab in Wilmington NC.