Girls who’re sexually abused as kids likely to hit puberty earlier than others | health and fitness | Hindustan Times
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Girls who’re sexually abused as kids likely to hit puberty earlier than others

Victims of childhood sexual abuse are more vulnerable to behavioural, mental health problems, and reproductive cancers than others.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 29, 2017 13:31 IST
High-stress situations, such as childhood sexual abuse, can lead to increased stress hormones that jump-start puberty ahead of its standard biological timeline.
High-stress situations, such as childhood sexual abuse, can lead to increased stress hormones that jump-start puberty ahead of its standard biological timeline.(Shutterstock)

Young girls who are victims of childhood sexual abuse are likely to physically mature eight to 12 months earlier than other girls, claims a new study.

“Though a year’s difference may seem trivial in the grand scheme of a life, this accelerated maturation has been linked to concerning consequences, including behavioural and mental health problems and reproductive cancers,” said Jennie Noll, Professor at Pennsylvania State University in the US.

The body is timed so that physical and developmental changes occur in tandem, assuring that as a child physically changes, they have adequate psychological growth to cope with mature contexts.

“High-stress situations, such as childhood sexual abuse, can lead to increased stress hormones that jump-start puberty ahead of its standard biological timeline,” Noll explained.

“When physical maturation surpasses psychosocial growth in this way, the mismatch in timing is known as maladaptation,” Noll said.

For the study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Noll and her team compared the pubescent trajectories of 84 females with a sexual abuse history and 89 of their non-abused counterparts.

“We found that young women with sexual abuse histories were far more likely to transition into higher puberty stages an entire year before their non-abused counterparts,” Noll stated.

“Due to increased exposure to estrogens over a longer period of time, premature physical development such as this has been linked to breast and ovarian cancers. Additionally, early puberty is seen as a potential contributor to increased rates of depression, substance abuse, sexual risk taking and teenage pregnancy,” Noll added.

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