Girls Who Mature Early Are More Likely to Have Psychological Problems Well Into Adulthood

Previous research has shown that young women who get their periods earlier than their peers have more psychological problems during their teenage years. These problems include eating disorders, depression, and substance abuse.

A new study led by Jane Mendle, associate professor of human development at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, finds that these problems are likely to persist into adulthood. The study tracked 8,000 young women from adolescence to early adulthood. The results showed that women who got their periods at an earlier age were more likely to suffer from depression and exhibit anti-social behavior well into adulthood. And the magnitude of the negative effects was just as strong in these women when they reached their late 20s as its was when they were teenagers.

Dr. Mendle and her associates found that one third of all girls enter puberty by age 8. “Because they look older, they start to get treated like they’re older,” Dr. Mendle said. “But they still have the internal mental workings of their normal chronological age. Parents tend to grant them more autonomy. They tend to be the targets of sexual harassment and rumors at school. And it can be hard for these girls to maintain their friendships with others who are maturing at a different rate.”

And Dr. Mendle adds that “usually people aren’t shoplifting at 25 as much as they do at 15. But these kids did not show the typical age-related declines in antisocial behavior, and their behaviors got worse.”

Dr. Mendle is a graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she majored in psychology. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Virginia.

The full study, “Age at Menarche, Depression, and Antisocial Behavior in Adulthood,” was published in the journal Pediatrics. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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