The New Puberty? How Pubescence has Changed and How to Deal with that




Has puberty changed?

The fuss about the fragility of adolescence and adolescents could be vexing. This irritation is on a different level for old-school parents whose ultra-conservative parenting style will not tolerate youthful shenanigans. Psychology books treat the topics with remarkable empathy while professionals are forever advocating that these tenderfoots be adequately cared for. They are perpetually portrayed as frangible Chinese tea cups that should be handled with care.

Several books on this subject, including Blinding Realities, tows the path of a passionate call on parents and adults to handle these youngsters with prudence. Part of what should be done for them is to find the right channel for their virile energy and burgeoning emotions. But why all these extravagant demands on young people’s behalf? After all, puberty is a timeless phenomenon. Why should twenty-first-century teens have the nerve to demand a healthy outlet for their sexual instincts? Some parents may begin to imagine the “new puberty” that teenagers are experiencing these days. The time is apt to ask: Has puberty changed?

Puberty is an old, natural phenomenon. Although it has not changed per se, circumstances surrounding puberty have seen consequential transformations. A great change has taken place as humans evolved, fed on healthier diets and built more complex societies. This change can be viewed in terms of the decline in the age at which puberty happens as well as the complexity of the adolescent’s environment.

The secular trend─ Is puberty happening faster?

Experts believe that the age at which puberty arrives has gotten younger. Over the last 150 years, the age of menarche among girls has fallen by around four years due to better nutrition in childhood and much lower rates of childhood infectious diseases.114 This phenomenon is known as the ‘secular trend’— a striking tendency for children to become progressively larger at all ages.115

In a 1997 article, Peterson A. C. wrote about the significant transformation that had happened to puberty over the years. “In Norway, today, menarche— a girl’s first menstruation— occurs at just over 13 years of age, compared with 17 years of age in the 1840s. In the United States, where children mature up to a year earlier than in European countries, the average age of menarche has declined significantly since the mid-nineteenth century. The available information suggests that menarche began to occur earlier at about the time of the Industrial Revolution, a period associated with increased standards of living and advances in medical science”.116


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