According to Health Day News on Wednesday, teens who began puberty at an early age are more likely to experiment with cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, researchers report.
According to a press release, it “reveals that teens for whom puberty begins early and who have rapid pubertal development are at greater risk for experimenting with cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana.
“The study, “Perceived Pubertal Timing and Recent Substance Use Among Adolescents: A Longitudinal Perspective,” was conducted by public health researcher Jessica Duncan Cance and colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was published in the October issue of the journal Addiction.
The sample set involved 6,500 male and female children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The researches measured the participants' perceived pubertal timing using the Pubertal Development Scale (PDS), which is a five question survey that asks children about body and facial hair growth, skin changes and height. For girls specifically, questions also asked about breast development and menstruation.
The researchers had asked about substance use within the past three months. The team found that children who matured faster than others had a greater risk of experimenting with drugs such as cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana. The researchers also found that there was a great variation in the onset of puberty for both girls and boys than previously presumed. Girls tended to develop faster than boys and nonwhite children matured faster than white children.
"We all go through puberty. We remember it being either an easy transition or a very difficult one," study author Jessica Duncan Cance, a public health researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a university news release.
Cance noted that much research has been devoted to the psychological and social factors that increase teens' risk of substance use, but relatively little is known about how the timing of the start of puberty could play a role.
"Our study suggests that being the first girl in the class to need a bra, for example, prompts or exacerbates existing psychological and social aspects that can, in turn, lead to substance use and other risky behaviors early in life," she explained.
Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.
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