Are there limits to this trend toward younger and younger sexual development? If not, the kids of the future may enter puberty in the middle of childhood. That could create enormous problems when sexual awareness precedes emotional maturity by a decade or more.
It could happen, but that isn't likely. Actually, studies now indicate that a leveling off and perhaps a reversal of the trend is occurring. As of 1988, the average age of menarche reached a low point of 12.5.1 By 1993, however, researchers Dann and Roberts found that the curve had begun to swing back in the other direction. Puberty appears to be arriving slightly later again. Why? Well, just as better nutrition and health care caused the average age to drop in the recent past, the present emphasis on ultrathin bodies and intense exercise is apparently delaying development somewhat.2 Many physicians are concerned about today's obsession with what used to be called "skinniness." Extremes, they say, are rarely beneficial to human beings--whether they be manifested in grossly overweight bodies or those that are bone thin.
A famous biochemist at the University of Southern California, Dr. Sam Bessman, once told me, "Remember that the body never stops eating. If you don't feed it properly, it will begin to consume itself." That is precisely what happens in the girl who consumes too few calories; she may have no periods for years at a time.
“Growing Needs, Diverse Needs: Discussion of Reproductive Health and Sexuality Needs of Today’s Youth,” Population Reports, Johns Hopkins University 23, no. 3 (October 1995): 4.
Margaret Rees, “Menarche When and Why?” The Lancet (journal of the British Medical Association) 342, no. 8884 (4 December 1993): 1375.