The headline from a recent article in the Nouvel Observateur read: “Where have the little girls gone?”. It seems that the transition to adolescence is occurring at a younger and younger age. It’s a trend that worries child psychiatrists who are convinced of the importance of the Freudian “latency stage”, the protected haven that constitutes childhood.
Biologically, young girls are becoming women quicker than in the past: although the age of getting their first period hasn’t changed much for half a century (12.5 years on average), mammary glands are appearing earlier. Between 10% and 25% of young girls show signs of puberty from the age of 7 onwards, which was extremely rare a few decades ago.
The cause? A diet that’s more varied and richer than a century ago: little girls have all the nutrients necessary to grow up fast and excess weight which is more and more common) favours a high level of oestrogen, the hormone responsible for puberty. Pesticides and other chemical elements are also accused of accelerating the puberty process.
Neuroscientist Lise Eliot published a book in the US in 2009 called “Pink brain, blue brain : How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps — And What We Can Do About It ” in which she shows, with scientific evidence to back her up, that male and female brains are similar overall even if some differences do exist between the sexes. With the book’s release in France on the 1st of September 2011, here’s a summary.
American Lise Eliot explains that she wrote this book because as a mother and as a scientist, she was curious to understand if the differences she observed between girls and boys were due to nature or upbringing. In short, Lise Eliot wanted to revisit the nature versus nurture debate but with neuroscience’s most modern tools: the bibliography which lists the studies she used to support her claims totals 46 pages!
And the conclusion she makes from this mass of scientific data is enlightening: “At birth, boys and girls are definitely different in some ways, but they are fundamentally the same.”
Abercrombie and Fitch has once again created buzz around its products—this time, though, it has caused a stir with its audience. In April, the clothing chain began selling padded bikinis at their children’s stores which are aimed for 8 to 14-year-olds. This has sparked controversy among parents and the media who are concerned with the over-sexualization of youth today. The brand has attempted to relabel the bathing suits as bras for 12-14 year olds, but the negative buzz has already made the rounds and has spread all around the internet. We are thus left wondering: great publicity stunt or terrible marketing idea?