Currently, there is a scientific consensus that females are hitting puberty earlier than before, developing breasts as young as 7 or 8. Scientists believe childhood obesity, since body fat is linked to the production of estrogen, and chemicals in the water and food supply are the likely culprits and wondered if the same trend is affecting males.
The scientists published their findings in the Journal of Pediatrics. The scientists focused on testicle size. Conventionally, boys hit puberty at 11.5 years old. The researchers looked at the records of 4,131 boys aged 6 to 16 in 41 states in the USA. This data was compiled from 2005 to 2010.
The researchers discovered that on average, boys were starting puberty almost two years earlier than previously. White and Hispanic boys started puberty at 10 years of age, 1.5 years earlier than the national average. African-American boys started puberty at 9 years old. Roughly 9% of Caucasians experienced enlarged testes as early as 6. For Hispanics, it was 7% and for African-Americans, it was nearly 20%. All groups started pubic hair growth a year after the testes enlarged.
While this study wasn’t focused on determining an underlying cause, childhood inactivity, environmental factors and changes in diet are all possible factors. This could mean that sex education should start earlier, because children are entering puberty a lot sooner.
Reference: “Secondary Sexual Characteristics in Boys: Data From the Pediatric Research in Office Settings Network” by Marcia E. Herman-Giddens, PA; Jennifer Steffes, MSW; Donna Harris, MA; Eric Slora, PhD; Michael Hussey, MS; Steven A. Dowshen, MD; Richard Wasserman, MD; Janet R. Serwint, MD; Lynn Smitherman, MD and Edward O. Reiter, MD, 1 November 2012, Journal of Pediatrics.