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Helping Your Child Cope With Precocious Puberty

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Sep 12, 2022

    Helping Your Child Cope With Precocious Puberty

    Precocious puberty is the early development of puberty. In general, kids now enter puberty much earlier than their parents did. Early-onset of puberty occurs when the child’s body shows signs of puberty at an earlier age, specifically at around 8-9 years old. Precocious puberty is NOT normal for the population, but when it happens, the primary cause will be hormonal imbalance and the secondary cause is genetic predisposition. 

    What is Considered as Early Puberty?

    According to David L. Hill, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in North Carolina and author of Dad to Dad: Parent Like a Pro, there are two types of early puberty:

    Central precocious puberty

    Gonadotropin-dependent precocious puberty occurs when the pineal gland produces hormones in the brain.

    Gonadotropin is a hormone that is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, which results in stimulation of the child’s gonads (testes, ovaries), in turn these gonads secretes different hormones for puberty

    Peripheral precocious puberty

    Gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty sets in when a child’s sex organs or adrenal glands produce high levels of hormones.

    It is easy to realize early puberty in children. In girls, early puberty, that is, puberty before she turns eight years old, manifests itself through breast enlargement (a very important sign), growth of pubic and underarm hair, growth spurt, and the first menstrual period before 10 years of age.

    In boys, there is an enlargement of the testes, a growth of the penis and darkening of the  scrotum, growth of pubic hair, and a growth spurt before the age of 8 to 9 years.

    Precocious Puberty and a Girl’s Behavior

    Puberty amongst girls before eight years of age is called precocious puberty, while among boys, puberty before nine years is considered to be early onset.

    In case your daughter has experienced early puberty, the changes in hormones can make her have mood swings. At this period, girls are at a higher risk of poor relationships, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

    As a parent, you should have a serious conversation with her about sex, love, friends, and hygiene throughout her menstrual cycle, especially during the period. Let her know that her change is normal, despite it having set in comparatively before that of other kids.

    Precocious Puberty and a Boy’s Behavior

    Usually, early puberty happens in girls more often than boys. If your boy enters his puberty early, he may become aggressive and develop a sex drive. He may get into fights with other boys because of his aggressiveness and may be distracted in school. You should keep treating your boy as normal, even if he has started to look like a man earlier than his peers of the same gender.

    Causes of Precocious Puberty

    The hypothalamus decides the onset of puberty among girls and boys. Situated near the brain, it sends signals to the pituitary gland, located near the base of the brain to release hormones that stimulate the testicles in boys and ovaries in girls to create sex hormones. 

    • Precocious puberty among girls occurs when the hypothalamus sends signals earlier than it is expected to. This is more common among girls than boys.
    • Sometimes, it may be genetically inherited, which again is more true for girls than boys.
    • It may occur due to other serious medical conditions like central nervous system abnormalities and rare genetic syndromes.
    • Another less common trigger may be due to trauma or development of a tumour like a thyroid and health conditions in the ovaries.

    Diagnostic Process 

    Your doctor may advise your child to take the following tests to diagnose the reason behind the early onset of puberty:

    • A blood test to know whether they have high levels of sex hormones.
    • Bone scan to analyze whether their bones are maturing earlier than normal.
    • MRI scan of the brain to rule out the presence of a tumor

    Treatment for Precocious Puberty

    If the medical tests show early maturation of your child’s hand and wrist bones, and high levels of sex hormones, your doctor may probably refer you to an endocrinologist for further treatment.

    The usual treatment can be as follows:

    • GnRH agonist therapy (Leuprolide) – Suppresses gonadotropin secretion by downregulating GnRH receptors
    • Treating the underlying medical condition that is the root cause of precocious puberty in your chil, such as the surgical removal of a tumor (if there is one)

    Treatment results in the decrease of growth rate, generally to age-appropriate values. It also leads to an even greater decrease in the osseous (bone) maturation.

    Talking to your children

    Kids often find it difficult to cope with their changes. Instead of letting children struggle through it alone, you should have a conversation with them about these changes and other transformations that they may expect in the near future.

    Convey to them that they can approach you to answer any of their concerns. You also need to explain to them all they need to know about puberty. Although you cannot control all that happens outside your house, you can definitely make a home for them where they feel safe to be themselves. 

    Learn more about Adolescence here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

    Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Sep 12, 2022

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