>Early Menstruation – Parenting Styles May Also Trigger It
Early periods in girls

Early Menstruation – Parenting Styles May Also Trigger It

The following is a guest post by a researcher, Patty Kuo. She is currently a developmental psychology PhD student at the University of Michigan, where her research interests include hormonal and neural correlates of parental care, and the way interrelationships in families affect parent-child relationships.

early puberty in girls

“I experienced my first period when I was eleven.” 

Though this thought of a 6th grade girl becoming physically able to get pregnant is the subject of nightmares for most of the parents, it’s not as uncommon as you might think. The average age for a girl on national basis to get her very own first period is twelve years, and some girls may even start as early at eight years. Why is it so, why so young? No one would put the matter to debate that an 11 year old is emotionally capable of raising and bringing up a child.

Why would psychology reach pretty far off as compared to female biology when it comes to sexual maturity?  

  • It hasn’t been definitely proved that obesity and early periods are related to each other but substantial evidences point towards to an association. A disproportionate number of girls suffering from obesity reach their puberty earlier than those of average weight.
  • Therefore, boys are also hitting their puberty somewhat earlier than before (though not as the same extent as of girls), but boys having obesity tend to reach to it a bit later as compared to others. One possible reason could be their increased levels of estrogen.

But as Powell pointed out, other factors could be in play other than obesity. Scientists are having researches and studies that whether chemicals or hormones that we encounter on daily basis might be having an effect. These chemicals could be naturally occurring in eatables or may be added to them, or they may be found in each of the items from beauty products to furniture.

Xenoestrogens are the hormones that minimize the impact of estrogen or turn on estrogen receptors and act like estrogen. This could be present in certain products containing soy, food can plastics, fiber food storage containers and possibly the nonstick coating that lines frying pans.

Sleep deprivation, too, can lead to obesity and therefore potentially earlier periods for girls, Powell said.

Recent controversy surrounding this topic tags a fatty and preservative-laden diet as the culprit. But an increasing mound of points resulting by researches present some surprising social and evolutionary influences on the timing of a girl’s first period that is parental care.

One of the most popular evolutionary theories on menarche (first menstruation) explores the various emotional and developmental effects of parental care.

The ‘Parental Care’ Theory

When parental care is inconsistent, less sensitive, and more emotionally negative, children will develop insecure attachments and opportunistic mating strategies.

The ‘Dad’s Not Around’ Theory

  • One aspect of the theory that has generated a lot of buzz is the implication that divorce and paternal absence may accelerate the onset of menarche. The theory suggests that when Dad’s not around, menarche is brought on by way of bio-signals that tell the body, “This is an unstable environment,” or “There’s a shortage of males in the population.”
  • In these scenarios, the evolutionary brain sees survival as less likely, and therefore speeds up the sexual maturation process. This increases the chances of successful mating opportunities before death. So, in this sense, earlier sexual maturation provides an adaptive advantage, allowing these individuals to pass on their genes before it’s too late.

But what if the male present is unrelated, like a stepfather? The unrelated male hypothesis argues that the presence of an unrelated male should signal a reproductive opportunity, and thus accelerate menarche. And in fact, recent research has shown that the presence of a stepfather does accelerate menarche (Ellis, 2004; Ellis & Garber, 2000). But interestingly enough, the conclusion is reversed in girls who have supportive and invested stepfathers.

Maternal Attachment

However, it’s not only about paternal investment. Attachment, characterized by the relationship between an infant and its primary caregiver (usually the mother; Ainsworth, 1979) has also been examined as a predictor of menarche timing. Infant attachment is assessed as secure or insecure depending upon the infant response to the mother’s departure and return in, what’s known as, the Strange Situation procedure (Ainsworth, 1978).

Girls who had insecure attachments to their mother achieved menarche earlier than girls who had secure attachments (Belsky, Houts, & Fearon, 2010). This may be reflective of harsher maternal responses in the early environment, which influences future reproductive strategy (Belsky, Steinberg, Houts, & Halpern-Felsher, 2010). Meaning, if  mom is harsh, then it would be in a girl’s evolutionary interest to mature faster. This way, she could find a mate that would take care of her.

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