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Girls will be girls longer when home life is stable
Date:11/14/2007

For many young girls, a stable family life is one key factor to avoiding a number of serious health problems. New research by researchers at The University of Arizona and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, indicates that girls who grow up with supportive parents who themselves have a strong relationship are more likely to delay the onset of puberty.

Bruce J. Ellis, an associate professor in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the UA, and Marilyn J. Essex at Wisconsin, are reporting their research (Family Environments, Adrenarche, and Sexual Maturation: A Longitudinal Test of a Life History Model) in the November/December issue of Child Development, the journal of the Society for Research in Child Development. Ellis was the lead author of the study.

Early puberty in girls is already known as a risk factor for a variety of health problems, including mood disorders, substance abuse, adolescent pregnancy and cancers of the reproductive system. Understanding these risks are also essential as a means to develop effective early intervention and prevention strategies.

Ellis and Essex based their study on a 1991 model developed by noted psychologist Jay Belsky and his colleagues of the role of family ecology in speeding up or slowing down puberty in girls. Belskys theory is that childrens early experiences affect how they mature. Certain stressors in and around the family create conditions that speed puberty as well as sexual activity. These stressors include poverty, marital conflict, negativity and coercion in parent-child relationships, and lack of support between parents and children. According to Belskys theory, children adaptively adjust their sexual development in response to the conditions in which they live.

To test this, Ellis and Essex investigated how stressors affect childrens development by examining families of 227 preschool children in Wisconsin. They measured socioeconomic conditions, marital c
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Contact: Bruce J. Ellis
bjellis@email.arizona.edu
520-626-5703
University of Arizona
Source:Eurekalert

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