Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Blossoming Too Early?

American girls are reaching puberty younger than ever. Why?

Why Is the Age of Puberty Dropping? continued...

Others attribute the drop to in increase in childhood obesity. "My own bias is that a major contributor to earlier puberty is the increasing prevalence of obesity over the past 25 years -- especially in 6- to 11-year-old girls," says Paul Kaplowitz, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Charlottesville, Va., and author of the LWPES report. "It has long been known that overweight girls tend to mature earlier and thin girls tend to mature later."

As for African-American girls maturing even earlier, Boepple believes this may be due to a higher cultural tendency toward obesity, while Kaplowitz hypothesizes that there may be genetic differences within the African-American population that predispose them to an earlier onset.

If a child is showing early signs of puberty, an evaluation by an endocrinologist is recommended to rule out other risks. "In a few cases, early puberty can be indicative of a tumor of the reproductive organs or that the brain has erroneously triggered the production of estrogen," says Boepple. "The great majority of girls are just developing early. But if a girl has unusual symptoms including headaches, abdominal pain, and weight loss, or if there isn't the growth spurt associated with puberty, there may be trouble."

Preparing Little Girls for Womanhood

While researchers speculate on reasons for the drop, parents must contend with broaching the subject of sexual development with children while they are still in grade school. According to Helen Egger, M.D., a child psychiatrist in Duke University's department of psychiatry, once you've noticed signs, it's important to let your child take the lead. Egger's own daughter started showing signs of puberty at 8, so she gave her daughter some books about puberty geared to pre-teens as a catalyst for discussion. Then she waited for her daughter to approach her with questions. "Our daughter wanted to talk about some of the topics that the books brought up, such as menstruation and breast development," Egger says. "She recognized on her own that her body was changing before her friends', and that naturally led to discussions about how she felt about that."

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration