Little Change in Sexual Maturity Among U.S. Children

Combined studies include data from 1966 through 1994

MONDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) -- There is concern among pediatricians that sexual maturity is occurring earlier among U.S. children than it had in the past. However, an analysis of nearly 30 years of health data published in the November issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests there is little persuasive evidence to support such a trend.

Shumei S. Sun, Ph.D., of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and colleagues compared sexual maturity data for U.S. non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white and Mexican-American children from three national surveys conducted from 1966 to 1994.

The investigators found no trend toward early maturation, measured by Tanner stage, in black boys, black girls or white girls over the nearly 30-year period. The proportion of 12- to 13-year-old white boys displaying Tanner stage 2 development increased from 73% to 91% over the course of study and both Mexican-American boys and girls showed an earlier onset of sexual maturation from 1982 to 1994.

"We need to continue to advocate for the establishment of consistent measures for assessing the onset of puberty," according to accompanying editorial by Charles E. Irwin, Jr., M.D. Further studies should include data from children down to age 7 and test for associations of sexual maturity with obesity, nutrition, geography and environmental toxins, he notes.

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