I was at the mall the other day where there were hundreds of kids hanging out. They couldn’t have been more than thirteen or fourteen, but most of the girls were rather developed and many of the guys had acne. Are kids maturing earlier today?
Yes, although the trend has been going in that direction for at least 175 years. Historical records indicate that the average age of menarche, or first menstruation, for girls in Western nations dropped from 17 years in 1830 to 12.8 in 1962, at the rate of about four months per decade.
American records show it was 14.6 in 1920, 13.1 in 1950, 12.5 in 1980, and 12.2 in 1992. A recent study of 2,510 American girls found that menarche occurred on average at 12.43 years. This age seems to have stabilized in the past fifty years, although secondary sex characteristics such as breast development and pubic hair are continuing to appear earlier.1
Obviously, girls are “growing up” very quickly today, especially in industrialized countries around the world.
1. William Cameron Chumlea, Ph.D., Christine M. Schubert, M.S., Alex F. Roche, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., Howard E. Kulin, M.D., Peter A. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., John H. Himes, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Shumei S. Sun, Ph.D., “Age at Menarche and Racial Comparisons in US Girls,” Pediatrics 111, no. 1 (January 2003): 110–113; J. L. H. Evers and M. J. Heineman, Gynecology: A Clinical Atlas (St. Louis: Mosby, 1990), 80.