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Indian kids hitting puberty before their teens

Jan 17, 2008 11:36 AM IST India India

New Delhi: Girls and boys are hitting puberty much earlier than before, according to a study more than 80 per cent of urban Indian girls hit puberty at the age of 11. And now experts say this comes with a risk of behavioral issues. And its not just girls, boys too are maturing faster than before. A victim of early puberty Kanika, (name changed) says,"I had menarche when I was in class five, and I personally feel that, as a girl it creates lots of problems when you hit puberty that early." Kanika is not an isolated case of a girl reaching early puberty, according to a survey conducted across 100 centres in India, more than 80 per cent of girls in cities are hitting puberty at a tender age of 11 compared to the average age of 13. According to gynaecologist, Apollo Hospital Dr Geeta Chaddha, "The minute a girl reaches a critical body mass, her body weight is ideal for her to carry out the function of reproduction, and the body gets into the mode of puberty by her hormones playing up." Its not just girls, but even boys are approaching puberty early. And there can be various reasons for this phenomenon, especially in cities— the cause can be a sedentary lifestyle, or the lack of physical exercise, obesity and at times the cause can even be your genes. Dietician Max Hospital, Ritika Samaddar, informs " It is basically the animal fat which has been shown to aggravate puberty to hit at an early age, so therefore one must make sure that one cuts down a lot on the animal protein content in one's diet." An early onset of pubescence can lead to both serious mental and physical consequences for the child. Psychologist Bhawna Barmi says, "The foremost is the identity crisis that he or she can face, the second is the fear of humiliation, and thirdly because of this increased stress they take on to substance abuse. They can be more depressed, aggressive and socially withdrawn, they might also start dating earlier, and have sex earlier." In fact, a study in the US found a link between early puberty and smoking, substance abuse and even lower self-esteem. Dr Chaddha advises parents on what to do in such a scenario "As a parent one should understand that the child will have a huge growth spurt, and should make sure the child's nutritional needs are met." In a survey that was conducted, it was found that a lot of children have vitamin D deficiency. So as a parent one should make sure that the child is on a healthy balanced diet, and that they are also getting enough physical exercise. It's an advice, no Indian parent can afford to miss and if one is still worried, then one should consult a doctor.