Saturday, August 14, 2010

Puberty in second grade

I haven't written about the recent study about girls of 7 or 8 growing breasts and pubic hair, because several ideas were swirling in my head. I still haven't sorted them out, so I guess I'll just blurt them out.

There is a syndrome whereby toddlers grow breasts. I've always assumed something like that was some gene getting turned on by accident of DNA or of environment. This doesn't seem to be that.

Reported age of menarche has been dropping for a hundred and fifty years. Much of this seems to have to do with nutrition. Your body needs a certain amount of body fat before it figures it's ready to breed, and girls are getting that body fat younger than they used to.

Or it could be that a certain percentage of young girls have always done this, but medical books, written by men we  hope are not especially interested in 7- and 8-year-old girls, hadn't noticed. Because cadavers for dissection  used to come pretty much exclusively from poor people, there is at least one case where the size of an organ shrunk by a disease of poverty was taken as a standard. Maybe richer girls get enough fat earlier than the poor girls who formed the baseline for 19th century medical texts. (I love speculation about research; it's so much easier than actual, you know, research about it.)

Or it could be that all these organophosphates and other chemicals we're putting into food containers and the food itself are changing the average sexuality of girl humans. And boys.

Or it could be a combination of nutrition and some long-term genetic change. I'd like to know if it's happening in Botswana and Bolivia, too. Or cosmic rays from the hole in the ozone layer. Or the flying spaghetti monster willed it. I need to go get some more coffee.

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