Meg Meeker, M.D.
A new study looking at more than 4,000 boys around the country confirms what pediatricians like me have been noticing for the past decade. Boys are going through puberty at earlier ages than they used to.
The study is featured in the latest issue of Pediatrics and reports that the earliest age at which boys begin puberty differs according to their ethnic background. African American boys can start puberty as early as 9.14 years of age and non-Hispanic Caucasian boys can start at 10.14 years old. For Hispanic boys, the earliest age they begin is 10.4 years old.
Think about this for a moment. Nine- and ten-year-old boys are in the fourth and fifth grades. If life weren’t tough enough, now many of our boys must contend with hormonal and physical changes with which they may not be mentally or emotionally prepared to deal. So what’s a parent to do? I’ve got some ideas.
The sexual development of boys is a beautiful and complex process and must be respected. We need to cherish our boys’ sexuality and teach them to do the same—especially when it begins as early as the fourth grade.
1. We need to teach our sons that their bodies are beautiful and private. Each boy must know that what is happening to his body is his business and no one else’s. Remember, boys become curious about their budding sexuality in middle school and many touch and fondle one another to experiment with physical sensations. While we need to tell them to keep their bodies private, we need to be sure not to make them feel ashamed.