Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 20th 2017 Contents A24 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Friday, January 20, 2017
Girls from low-income families in the US are
unprepared for puberty and have largely nega-
tive experiences of this transition, according to
researchers at Columbia University's Mailman
School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Their latest paper on the puberty experiences of
African-American, Caucasian, and Hispanic girls
living mostly in urban areas of the Northeastern US
shows that the majority of low-income girls feel they
lack the information and readiness to cope with the
onset of menstruation.
The research is one of the first comprehensive sys-
tematic reviews of the literature on puberty experi-
ences of low-income girls in the US. The findings are
published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
"Puberty is the cornerstone of reproductive de-
velopment," said Marni Sommer, DrPH, MSN, RN,
associate professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the
Mailman School of Public Health.
Young people have to work through a broad
range of issues as they move from childhood to
adulthood. They may have to deal with changes
to their bodies and their feelings and they may
be thinking about having their first relationship
or having sex.
Young people may also be exploring their identities
in terms of their sexuality or gender identity. They
may want more independence from their families,
and their friends may play a more important part in
their lives. Some may also want to experiment with
alcohol and other drugs.
Although growing up can be an exciting time, it can
also be confusing and challenging. Research shows
confident young people who feel supported by their
families and friends are more likely to safely negotiate
issues like these. However, it is important to remem-
ber adolescence is generally a time for experimenting
with risky behaviours, even with good parenting and
Teenagers and sexual relationships
Young people need access to comprehensive, fac-
tual information about sexuality to safely negotiate
adult relationships. The issues young people may be
confronted with include: safer sex, contraception,
sexually transmissible infections (STIs), unplanned
pregnancy, peer pressure, cultural definitions of gen-
der roles and sexual orientation.
Teenagers and alcohol
Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs. For
young people, alcohol use is associated with a range
of health risks, including: unsafe sex, unwanted sex,
unintended pregnancy, drink-driving and road ac-
cidents, violence and aggressive behaviour, criminal
Most low-income girls feel they lack the information
and readiness to cope with the onset of
menstruation, a US study finds.
Teen health: Be aware
of common issues
Many girls feel unprepared for puberty, new study finds
"Therefore, the transition through pu-
berty is a critical period of development
that provides an important opportunity to
build a healthy foundation for sexual and
reproductive health. Given the importance
of this transition, the research is striking
in its lack of quantity and quality to date."
The investigators used Qualitative Re-
search guidelines to review the data from
peer-reviewed articles with a qualitative
study design published between 2000 and
2014. They used a quality assessment form
as a further check of the data.
The age of breast development and me-
narche has declined steadily in the US dur-
ing the last 25 years, with 48 per cent of
African-American girls experiencing signs
of physical development by age eight.
"This trend may mean that increasing
numbers of African-American girls are
not receiving adequately timed puberty
education, leaving them uninformed and
ill-prepared for this transition," said Ann
Herbert, doctoral candidate at the Bloomb-
erg School of Public Health.
Although many of the girls reported being
exposed to puberty topics from at least one
source---mothers, sisters, or teachers---most
felt that the information was inaccurate,
insufficient, or provided too late.
Girls also reported being disappointed in
the information they received from moth-
ers; meanwhile many mothers said they
were unable to fully address their daugh-
ters' needs. Mothers were uncertain about
the right time to initiate conversations, un-
comfortable with the topic, and uninformed
about the physiology of menstruation. The
timing of puberty also influenced girls' pu-
"Our review makes it clear that there is
a need for new more robust interventions
to support and provide information about
puberty for low-income girls, something
we are considering for the coming years,"
said Sommer. (Columbia University's Mailman
School of Public Health)
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