“I just want to be 11 again,” is what I always tell my friends, when I get home from a long day at work. When I was 11 all I wanted was to be 21; now at 21 all I want is to be 11 again.
At age 11, all I had to worry about was waking up on time to get to school, which was only a block away from my house, and managing to not get in any trouble by the end of the day.
However, at the same time, I was also just beginning to become a young woman and began experiencing changes in my body, which was a bit difficult to deal with since most of my friends did not see these changes until they were 12 or 13 years old.
According to a study by the Pediatrics Journal, girls as young as seven are hitting puberty and are developing breasts and some even begin menstruating. I could not possibly imagine dealing with such a huge change at that tender age–the age of sleepovers and days at swim camp.
To many, especially parents, this is something not only weird but extremely worrisome. If girls begin developing at an early age, not only will they be more susceptible to teen-pregnancy, but also to sexually transmitted diseases and to earlier drug use, according to the study.
Society already puts a lot of pressure on girls as it is, instead of young girls playing with Barbies, they are pinning up provocative posters of sexy vampires and werewolves. Instead of watching Alice in Wonderland growing tall after eating those pills, too many girls are watching their friends die of overdoses, after experimenting with pills. Society is causing many young girls to want to grow up before their time by the shows they watch on television and the clothes they are “expected” to wear.
This is also worrisome, because most girls being affected happen to be African American. The study, which is a follow-up on research published in 1997, looked at more than 1,200 girls ages six to eight, who reside in New York, Ohio and California. The study found that girls are showing earlier signs of puberty than they did 13 years ago. Almost 25 percent of African American girls began developing breasts by the time they were seven years old. The rate for Hispanic/Latina girls was 15 percent and for White girls 10 percent. However, by the age eight, a staggering 42.9 percent of Blacks, 30.9 percent of Latinas and 18.3 percent of Whites showed signs of breast development.
According to the study, one explanation for the change is the growing rates of obesity, which can cause body fat to produce sex hormones. Another cause is environmental chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen, which may encourage puberty to begin sooner than it has in previous years. Another theory is that more images of sex on television can promote the development of sexual maturity.
Among the solutions the study suggests are that after-school programs and other such activities keep our girls safe and away from predators who see these girls as women. But it’s also important for parents to treat their children as children and monitor what they watch, wear, and especially what they eat. Parents need to cook food instead of using the microwave and also need to try to buy more organic and freshly grown fruits and vegetables, since a lot of food is said to be injected with hormones to keep them fresh longer.
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