Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cut the C%&# : 13 and Pregnant?

13 and Pregnant?
How Girls are Becoming Women Faster than Ever Before

Samantha Salis
            The year was 1999. I was 7 years old, and my 8th birthday was just around the corner. To put it in perspective, my daily ensemble consisted of pink circular framed classes (Yes, Harry Potter style), embellished overalls, and butterfly hair clips.  Although turning 8 must have been a “blasty-blast”, this particular birthday has stuck in my mind for one important reason: it was the year when my parents sat me down to have the “talk.”My mother so creatively drew a diagram of the female reproductive system while my dad sat still trying to hold back the tears.

             I still remember vividly the feeling of bile creeping up my throat after it was all over. The whole thing was disgusting. Ridiculous. Out-of-this-world. I mean, sex from an eight-year-old's perspective? "Ew!" is the general response. Or, it was. And as many people tend to do with traumatic events, I put this horrific concept in the back of my mind under lock and key. In the end, I led a childhood filled with Barbies, Rugrats, and Disney Princesses, in which I was not forced to think about these adult matters until later in high school.

          I am not sure if today’s generation of girls has that same option.

           Frankly, today’s girls are becoming women much more quickly than ever before. The difference may not seem obvious throughout the 21rst century, but compared to rates of puberty from the last 50 years, girls today are becoming women at alarming faster rates   [,9171,2097388-1,00.html].

        This concept has been coined as “precocious puberty,” and it is alarming because it has dangerous consequences in the areas of both health and overall socioeconomic wellbeing. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, those who go through “precocious puberty” are at a higher risk for teen pregnancy, delinquency, and lower academic success. Obviously, there are many girls who mature early who lead very successful, wonderful lives. However, on a grand scale, early maturation tends to prompt earlier sexual initiation, which can lead to the problems mentioned previous.

        Additionally, earlier development poses increased risk for breast cancer. The increased lifetime exposure to estrogen, and wider window between development and the first pregnancy greatly increases, not only the risk of breast cancer, but also fatality (when giving birth).

        Because "precocious puberty" crosses lines of race, it can logically be attributed to issues that face all of American society. Obesity and early development have been strongly linked. And today, the American problem of obesity is at an all time high. According to CBS news, a study conducted over the period of a decade showed that 80% of obese girls started puberty by age 9 []. Additionally, poultry and cattle often contain environmental contaminants that can have estrogenic properties. Consumption of hormone disrupters can be reduced by consuming organic meats!

           There is strong evidence that the American diet is a big player in precocious puberty. However, the media has likely served as a catalyst to early sexual acceptance (early mental development, so-to-speak). In 2011, Abercrombie and Fitch faced much negative publicity after marketing of a padded bathing suit top to girls as young as 7 years old []. It is easy to conclude that since the millennium, the media has been somewhat “sexified”. I would like to argue that today’s song lyrics are much more sexually aggressive than what I sang to as a child in the 90s. Britney Spears singing that she is “not that innocent” is a lot less suggestive than Usher telling me to “relax and get on [my] back” if I “wanna scream.”

         Conversely, I don’t think that sheltering girls from the topic of sex is right (Although Urban Dictionary does offer a convenient app for the iPhone…). I simply have observed that today’s tweens are growing up in a much different society than I did only 10 years ago. I would love to hear your comments on whether you not you think this is conducive to society: is innocence bliss? Or should the cat just be let out of the bag already? 

       From the Editor: We encourage responses! Please, don't feel shy! 

The "Is This Real Life?" Column, Samantha Salis:

Sam is a Psychology Major and Political Economy Minor at UC Berkeley. She is a dedicated young woman, ambitious and sharp as a whip. Our dear Samantha tutors high schoolers and works at a Psychology lab at UC Berkeley. Even with this busy schedule, Ms. Salis creates the time to divulge to us her insider perspective on the world around us, backed with thorough research. Enjoy!


ofilbrandt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samantha Salis said...

I completely agree that it is better to have an open dialogue than to rely on friends and possibly receive misinformation. Ideally, it best to have that open relationship with a parent in which the parent can answer questions/discuss at any point in time. However, I know many peers that do not have such a relationship with either parent.

In response to the second point, one of the biggest concerns for precocious puberty is the increased risks of certain cancers caused by excess estrogen. The longer the period of time between ones onset of menstruation and first time giving birth, the higher chance of breast cancer. Therefore, precocious puberty in addition to later births combines for an even higher risk of such cancers.