Girls hitting puberty as young as 7, but why? Is it bad?

A new study finds that girls are more likely to start developing breasts by age 7 or 8 today as opposed to a later age in the past, according to the journal Pediatrics.

Being overweight seemed to influence the early breast development. But researchers are also concerned about environmental causes for the earlier development.

From The New York Times:

“Our analysis shows clearly that the white participants entered puberty earlier than we anticipated,” said Dr. Frank M. Biro, the first author of the study and the director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Overweight girls were more likely to have more breast development, the study showed. But Dr. Biro said he did not think weight was the whole story. He said it was possible that environmental chemicals were also playing a role, and added that he and his colleagues were now studying the girls’ hormone levels and lab tests measuring their exposures to various chemicals…”

Dr. Catherine Gordon, a pediatric endocrinologist and specialist in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, said that breast development nor date of first menstruation has changed for white girls of normal weight.

The article went on to say:

“Dozens of studies have been published in the years since. Arguments continue, but many doctors accept the idea that heavier girls often develop earlier. And subsequent studies have also found that black and Hispanic girls mature earlier than whites, even when weight is taken into account. No one knows why. Though breasts may be sprouting earlier, the average age of first menstruation, between 12 and 13, has not really changed.

The AJC’s Gracie Bond Staples examined the trend in Georgia. Here is her report.

So why should we care if our daughters develop their breasts sooner?

Well according to scientists in the New York Times story there are multiple concerns.

The first concern is that the girls would be exposed to estrogen longer during their lives, which puts them at a higher risk for cancer.

The second concern is whether 7 or 8 year olds are ready to deal with the changes to the body and their minds that hormones bring — such as sexual feelings or even PMS-type stuff.

The third concern is emotionally are these 7 and 8 year old ready to deal with the attention that breasts bring. (How sad we have to worry about 7 or 8 year olds being harassed if they have breast buds!)

The fourth concern is if there is something environmentally causing it, scientists need to figure out what it is to stop it.

In a related story, the official Chinese Daily newspaper is reporting that Chinese babies are developing breasts and are found to have estrogen levels as high as in adult women. However, they think they know from where that estrogen is coming.

From The Huffington Post:

“According to the official Chinese Daily newspaper, medical tests performed on the babies found levels of estrogens circulating in their bloodstreams that are as high as those found in most adult women. These babies are between four and 15 months old. And the evidence is overwhelming that the milk formula they have been fed is responsible.”

“Synutra, the company that makes the baby formula consumed by these babies, says it’s not their fault. They insist that “no man-made hormones or any illegal substances were added during the production of the milk powder.”

“Then what is the source of the hormones? A Chinese dairy association says the hormones could have entered the food chain when farmers reared the cows.”

So, here are the questions:

1. What do you think of the first story about girls, overweight ones especially, beginning breast development at ages 7 or 8?

2. What have you seen with your own daughters or their friends?

3. When did you start to develop? Do you think your daughter’s development has mirrored your own? (I think at least with menstrual cycles it’s supposed to be about the same.

4. What do you make of the fact that African-American and Hispanic girls tend to develop earlier than white girls?

5. How concerned about you about the side effects of the early breast development?

6. What do you make of the Chinese babies developing breasts??? (Talk about being exposed to estrogen for a long time!)

58 comments Add your comment


August 12th, 2010
6:56 pm

My oldest started at 11 after showing all the classic signs. She was not thrilled but has handled it well, and now, of course, the ones who haven’t started are the ones who are feeling uncomfortable and worrying that something is wrong. I think the mom’s attitude is important to making the girl feel confident. I am no earth mother who embraces this change and throws a big party, but I think being positive and explaining that it happens to every female friend, mom, relative, etc. is important. We also went over what to if she started and was unprepared – who to talk to, what to ask for, etc.

I did not start until 13. My younger daughter is barely 10 and has some very early signs but does not appear to be getting close.


August 12th, 2010
7:41 pm

I am an educated, organic food eating white female who breastfed my daughter and made her homemade baby food. She started developing at 7-8 and had her period at 11. Previous generations in our family started in their early teens. She is not overweight and is an active healthy girl. I truly believe the problem is environmental chemicals. You can do everything right and still not escape them.


August 12th, 2010
9:50 pm

SALLY…good for you! I now remember the summer my daughter started. I kept telling my friends she was like a tick ready to pop. I could just tell, be her demeanor, that her period was coming. Sure enough, about 3 weeks later it happened.

We have been very open and forthright about anything the kids wanted to talk about. It has not always been easy but I hope it is easier for them than it was with my parents…where the communication was meager, at best.

[...] AJC Momania [...]


August 14th, 2010
6:17 pm

I might point out that overweight boys also seem to suffer from early breast development!


August 15th, 2010
3:25 pm

I can believe that obesity is part of the problem; Although I started developing a little in 3rd/4th grade, I didn’t need a bra until 5th and I didn’t start my period until late 8th grade, unlike most of the girls in my class. They are spot on about the emotional development; my little sister will sometimes cry and not know why; she’s in 5th grade going into 6th. As for the babies and the stunted growth and the 7/8 year-olds developing: They need to find the problem and fix it, fast!

Central Precocious Puberty

August 16th, 2010
1:09 pm

I found your post interesting. Did you know there is a treatment for early childhood puberty? Here is information if you need it I hope you find it helpful.


August 26th, 2010
4:17 pm

my daugter had her period at 8 , and at 7 she was developing breasts at that time. i tried to cover it but i had to except it ,but with a incident , she given birth at home when she was 10 years old , but she fine now . my granddaughter is 10 and my daughter she is 20 years old . unforuntaley the little boy wanted TO SHOW WAT BIG PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY MARRIED. But the boy maaried her now, legally . at age of 10 they had a play wedding and didnt know they will have a realistic honeymoon. but they all ok. but now her daughter got it young and dont have a playdate , that how her mother wanted it . anyways i dealt with it firsthand , you got to be careful, and i learned the hard way i had to give her the sex talk so early .