Is sexual maturity occurring earlier among U.S. children?

Shumei S. Sun, Christine M. Schubert, Rouhong Liang, Alex F. Roche, Howard E. Kulin, Peter Lee, John H. Himes, William Cameron Chumlea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Purpose: To compare the onset and completion of sexual maturation among U.S. children between 1966 and 1994. Methods: Tanner stages were from 3042 non-Hispanic white boys, 478 black boys, 2625 white girls, and 505 black girls (NHES 1966-70), from 717 Mexican-American boys and 712 Mexican-American girls (HHANES 1982-84) and from 259 non-Hispanic white boys, 411 black boys, 291 white girls, 415 black girls, 576 Mexican-American boys and 512 Mexican-American girls (NHANES III 1988-1994). Proportions of entry into a stage, probit analysis estimated medians and selected percentiles for ages at entry were calculated using SUDAAN. Results: NHANES III (1988-1994) non-Hispanic white boys entered stage 2, 3, and 4 genital development and stages 3 and 4 pubic hair earlier than NHES (1966-1970) white boys, but they entered stage 5 genital development significantly later. NHANES III (1988-1994) Mexican-American boys were in stage 2, 3 and 4 genital development earlier than HHANES (1982-1984) boys, but entry into stage 5 genital and pubic hair development was not significant. NHANES III (1988-1994) white girls entered stage 5 pubic hair later than NHES (1966-1970) white girls. NHANES III (1988-1994) Mexican-American girls entered stage 2 breast and pubic hair development earlier than HHANES (1982-1984) girls, entered stage 4 breast and pubic hair development earlier but entered stage 5 pubic hair later than the HHANES (1982-1984) girls. Conclusion: Persuasive evidence of a secular trend toward early maturation is not found between 1966 and 1994 in non-Hispanic black boys and non-Hispanic black and white girls. Some evidence of this trend is found in non-Hispanic white boys between 1966 and 1994 and in Mexican-American boys and girls between 1982 and 1994.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-355
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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