Is it normal for girls under 10 to hit puberty?

What would you do if your daughter started showing signs of puberty in first grade? As the mom of an almost 6-year-old, I must say I'd never given much thought to this until today. I guess I've always known that Latinas tend to hit puberty earlier than others, but I never imagined that a first grader, like the one in this story, could begin growing pubic hair.

But according to a study conducted by Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York back in 2010, by age 7, 15 percent of Hispanic girls had started developing breasts (compared to 10 percent of white girls and 23 percent of black girls).

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While this trend used to be more closely associated with diagnosable disorders, precocious puberty is now happening to some girls for no known reason. Considering the amount of peer pressure girls face today, the implications of early puberty are pretty huge. In fact, it's been proven that girls who develop before their peers tend to have lower self-esteem, more depression and more eating disorders. Many of these girls start drinking and lose their virginity sooner. Some have more sexual partners and more sexually transmitted diseases.

In other words, it's a serious problem. But what's a parent to do? Some have tried medicine to halt puberty's progress. It's worked for some, but it hasn't worked for others. Plus, at least for one medication known as Leuprolide, the possible side-effects--which include a higher risk of osteoporosis later in life--outweight the benefits. ¡Qué difícil! 

Moms who've gone throught this with their daughters say the best advice is to be candid. In fact, they say being brutally honest with your daughters about what's going to happen is imperative. But I can only imagine how difficult it would be for my almost 6-year-old, for example, to understand something for which she's not prepared. 

How would you deal with this if it happened to your daughter?

Image via thelesleyshow/flickr