This paper elucidates varying definitions of “early menarche” and reviews evidence in four well-documented areas: (a) A potential trend toward earlier maturation, (b) racial differences in menarcheal timing, (c) etiology of early puberty, and (d) consequences of early puberty. While teachers and physicians perceive menarche as occurring earlier than in the past, mean menarcheal age has remained relatively constant over the past 50 years. Conflicting results concerning racial differences in timing highlight the need for further research to unravel the effects of race and social economic status (SES). Evidence regarding the relative etiological contributions of nutrition, environmental stress, and genetics is evaluated. Maturing earlier than one’s peers has negative consequences for girls, especially when combined with simultaneous stressors. However, the negative psychosocial consequences of early puberty may not last into later adolescence or adulthood. Few studies have investigated early-maturing adolescents’ subjective experience with menarche, particularly those from non-white and non-middle-class backgrounds.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 12, 2006
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