(RxWiki News) The teen years can be a challenge for both kids and their parents. But keeping an eye on early-maturing teen girls may make a difference.
A new study from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) found that early-maturing teen girls who are given too much freedom may be at an increased risk of alcohol abuse. In the absence of parental supervision, interactions with older teens may lead young teen girls to imitate alcohol-related behaviors beyond their maturity level.
For this study, a team of researchers led by Daniel J. Dickson, MA, a PhD candidate in experimental psychology at FAU, looked at 957 Swedish girls who were age 13 on average at the study's start.
These participants completed surveys once a year for four years. The surveys included questions about alcohol use, puberty and perception of parental supervision.
Dickson and team divided the teens into three groups based on when they began their first menstrual cycle.
"Early-maturing" girls were those who reached puberty before age 12. "On time" girls were those who reached puberty between ages 12 and 13, and "late-maturing" girls were those who reached puberty after age 13.
According to Dickson and team, girls who mature early tend to be ridiculed and harassed by their peers, which may lead them to seek out the company of older teens who are more physically mature. This can lead to alcohol abuse issues when younger girls imitate the behaviors of their older peers.
The early-maturing girls who had less parental supervision were at the highest risk of alcohol abuse.
Alcohol intoxication rates also increased three times faster in early-maturing girls with more freedom compared to those with less freedom.
Parental supervision waned even more as alcohol use increased.
Lack of parental supervision in the girls who matured on time or late was not linked to alcohol abuse risk.
Dickson and team noted that even after other factors were accounted for, parental supervision remained the deciding factor for early-maturing girls when it came to alcohol use.
These researchers said doctors should discuss the potential risks with parents of early-maturing girls.
The study was published Sept. 21 in the journal Pediatrics.
The National Institutes of Health funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.