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Early Puberty May Up Risk of Delinquency in Young Girls

Best friend's deviant behavior also contributes to problem behavior in young adolescent girls

MONDAY, Dec. 9, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Early puberty and deviant behavior of friends may increase the risk of problem behaviors in young adolescent girls, according to research published online Dec. 9 in Pediatrics.

Sylvie Mrug, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues interviewed 2,607 girls, at ages 11, 13, and 16 years, and their parents, to assess the effects of early puberty (onset of menarche before age 11) and peer deviance on delinquent behavior in early adolescence.

The researchers found that about 16 percent of girls were early maturers. Early puberty was associated with increased delinquent behavior and physical aggression at age 11. Over time, the association with early puberty diminished for physical aggression but remained for delinquency. Best friend's deviant behavior was associated with increased levels of all problem behaviors; this relationship diminished over time for most outcomes. Early puberty was associated with a stronger relationship between best friend's deviance and delinquent behavior.

"Early puberty and friends' deviance may increase the risk of problem behavior in young adolescent girls," the authors write.

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