Boys are beginning puberty earlier than ever before, according to new research.
A study, set to be published in the November 2012 Pediatrics, found that pubertal onset in boys is happening six months to two years earlier than previously documented data.
Medical professionals observed more than 4,100 boys. They noticed the earliest stage of puberty “occurring in non-Hispanic white boys at age 10.14 years; in non-Hispanic African-American boy at age 9.14 years, and in Hispanic boys at age 10.4,” the American Academy of Pediatrics reported.
Study authors say African-American boys are more likely to start puberty earlier than boys that are white or Hispanic.
"All parents need to know whether their sons are maturing within the contemporary age range, but, until now, this has not been known for U.S. boys," Dr. Richard C. Wasserman, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Vermont, explained.
As noted in The New York Times, experts are using caution because previous studies weren’t done on such a large scale and had used different approaches. Therefore, if is difficult to estimate how much earlier boys might be developing.
The NYT also reports that the authors did not try to determine the causes of earlier puberty, although they mentioned “changes in diet, less physical activity and other environmental factors as possibilities.” Further research is needed.
The trend toward earlier onset of puberty in girls is generally accepted today, supported by extensive research. Historically, it was taught that 11 ½ was the general age puberty began in boys.