My son and I have a very open relationship when it comes to communication. Throughout his childhood, I make sure that he’s comfortable with telling me anything. We operate in a no judgement zone. Two years ago, at the age of 11, he came running into my room and yelled, “Mommy, I ejaculated”. I took my glasses off, and peered from behind my book. “I hope you didn’t touch my doorknob”, is what I said. We looked at each other, then laughter followed. After we gathered our composure, we had the “talk”. It was short and to the point, he only expressed one concern. When will “it” get bigger?
Oh the joys of puberty.
According to a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, although the reasons aren’t clear, boys are beginning puberty six months to two years earlier than in previous decades, mirroring a trend in girls. This study was the first large-scale look at puberty in U.S. boys in 25 years. It found that average boys now show the first signs between the ages of 9 and 10. In previous studies the average ages were 11 years or more.
The study also showed that early signs of puberty were more prevalent in African-American boys, especially when it comes to genital enlargement by the age of 9 years old. In Latino boys, the average is 10 years old and for white boys, 10.1 years old.
The trend was most pronounced in African-American boys, who start to develop the early signs of puberty, defined by genital enlargement, at 9.1 years. For Hispanic boys, the average is 10 years, and for white boys, 10.1 years, according to the study published online Saturday in the journal Pediatrics.
“Parents should be aware that boys may be developing earlier and give their sons the proper guidance and instructions on what to expect,” said Marcia Herman-Giddens, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics study.
But it’s unclear what’s fueling earlier puberty in boys — or the cause of the racial differences — because so little comprehensive research has been done in the past. “While genetics can influence the age of puberty, I feel it has to be more than one thing — something in the environment most likely,” said Professor Herman-Giddens, an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. “It will take a lot more research to learn why puberty in boys is occurring earlier.”
The researchers analyzed sexual maturity markers in 4,131 boys ages 6 to 16 who were seen at wellness clinics across the U.S.