Even with those steps, some girls will simply be predisposed to developing earlier than others and that's perfectly normal, the experts said. And while early development poses risks for girls, parents can help their girls by talking with them, Herman-Giddens said.
"Whatever they do, parents cannot just ignore it," she said. "Women have told me that their parents completely shut down and did not know how to cope or help them at all. That is very hard on the child. They have to reassure the child they are normal, they are just early."
A second study published in The Lancet, led by Mildred Maisonet of Emory University, Atlanta, examined at the histories of 4,000 British girls aged 8 to 14. Her team found that girls whose mothers had experienced menarche before age 12, who smoked during pregnancy or who were firstborn children were more likely to experience early onset of puberty compared to other girls.
Daughters of obese mothers were also more likely to be overweight themselves, and were more likely to show breast development at an early age, the study found. Birth weight or birth length did not influence the timing of puberty, yet a rapid increase in BMI during infancy was associated with earlier onset of puberty.
There's advice on talking to children about puberty at the Nemours Foundation.
SOURCES: Frank Biro, M.D., director, adolescent medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; Marcia Herman-Giddens, Dr.PH, P.A., adjunct professor, public health, department of maternal and child health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, N.C.; September 2010 Pediatrics
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