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When Puberty Ends

I heard a 23-year-old woman complain: “I must be getting old when 11:00 at night is late.” It got me thinking.

It turns out that the explanation for why teens are natural night owls has recently been elucidated. They can’t help it — they just don’t get tired until way later in the evening. Then, of course, their bodies want to stay asleep well into the next morning in order to feel sufficiently rested. Since most of them are stuck with the artificial structure of school hours, they’re screwed — and condemned to suffer constant fatigue from cumulative sleep deprivation. Old news.

Then I started wondering about the back end of this phenomenon. Even though our American “youth culture” attributes great coolness to late-night happenings, since this pubertal sleep shift is biological, there must come a point at which their pineal glands go back to releasing melatonin at a more reasonable hour. Does 10 years sound about right? I remember not being nearly as enamored of the “all-nighter” by the time medical school rolled around, as opposed to college, where staying up all night was a regular occurrence. Certainly by residency (ages 26 to 30), it was a killer. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Why A Good Childhood Isn’t About Good Grades

Spring and standardized school testing become synonymous in many areas of the country for many public school students, including for my own children attending schools in Massachusetts.

As this annual rite of passage rolls around, I’m reminded of how important it is to help our kids remember that they’re so much more than the sum of their grades, test scores, and project results. Think back on your childhood: What do you remember? Is it the grades, the teachers, the homework amount? Did you have standardized tests and, if so, do you remember the results?

I recall blips of taking tests and filling out scantron sheets for all sorts of tests throughout my educational life. I recall being in class when graded papers, projects and tests were handed back to us. But the moments I recall the most were the times I overcame a challenge or a hurdle that seemed insurmountable at the time — and grew from it in unimaginable ways. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

Early Puberty Linked To Aggression in Women

Interesting title, eh? A University of Queensland study has reported in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology that females who experience puberty before the age of 12 may be more aggressive, which seems perfectly expected to me!

Young girls who experience puberty are frequently the tallest kids in their classrooms, the first ones to have breasts, and are likely to be teased and approached in a sexual manner by older males! This context means they are more likely to date earlier, have opportunities to drink, smoke and become sexual earlier, etc.. In fact, these girls, although they get in more trouble at teens, tend to grow up to be very strong and resilient women – characteristics frequently correlated with aggression!

I am simply not surprised by these results but do hope that the results encourage schools, medical professionals and others who work with preteens to notice pubertal changes and help young girls deal with the pressure and changing peer and social status that comes with puberty.

Photo credit: xinem

This post, Early Puberty Linked To Aggression in Women, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

Teen males: Getting their minds out of the gutter

By Stacy Beller Stryer, M.D.

I read an interesting article in the New York Times last week, “Inside the Mind of the Boy Dating Your Daughter.” When I saw the title, I was instantly drawn to it because my older daughter is going to enter high school in the fall (yikes!) and has recently begun talking about boys. She currently attends a magnet school where most of her classmates are female. She just mentioned, for the first time, that there are no boys to like in her program, which makes for boring sleepover talks (but makes her mother exceedingly happy). Given that I think she’s the cat’s meow, I thought I could get a little “inside information” from reading the article before throwing her into the world of male testosterone and upperclassmen.

However, the article totally surprised me. Coming from a family of 3 girls and having 2 daughters, myself, I am much more comfortable figuring out what a girl might be thinking or feeling than a boy. I must admit that I believed the folklore that teen boys basically have sex on their brains. But, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Adolescence, this is not the case.   Researchers had 105 10th grade teens complete a survey about sex, love and relationships. Reportedly, most boys said the main reason they would date someone was because they “really liked her.” The second most common reason they wanted to date someone was to get to know her better, and because they were physically attracted to her. Of note, 40% of the boys stated that they had already been sexually active and 14% wanted to have sex to lose their virginity. We must remember, however, that this was a relatively small sample size done in one school.

As a follow-up, the New York Times asked people to send in their comments about the article, and they discussed the results in the Week in Review Many of the comments sent in were from adult men, who didn’t believe the teens answered honestly because, as these adults remembered, (?is their memory correct) they thought about sex, and only sex as teens.

An important and notable comment made by Dr. Andrew Smiler, the author of the study, is that parents are less likely to talk to their sons about relationships than their daughters. He stressed the need to talk to boys frequently about relationships, respect, trust and sex.

This gives me some hope that my daughter won’t be bombarded with a storm of testosterone the moment she enters high school. Actually, I am not too worried because I have been preparing her for the world of “boys” since she was much younger. For years we have talked about puberty, and as she has become older we have added relationships, values, possible uncomfortable situations, and waiting to have sex. I believe that this will carry her a long way. And, according to research, I am right, because telling a teenager to wait to have sex actually makes it more likely that they will.

As parents, we must remember to talk to both our daughters and our sons. Our discussions should start early. In elementary school, they should know what puberty is and how boys and girls develop. They should also learn about love and respect. As preteens, they should have talks regarding dating, relationships, and sex. If you wait too long, they will not hear you, or they will already have had to deal with a sexual situation and may not have known how to handle it. Amy Mirion and Charles Miron, authors of How to Talk With Teens About Love, Relationships, and S-E-X, also discuss how important it is to have small, ongoing dialogue rather than the one “big sex talk.” They suggest that, when parents talks with boys, they be direct and simple, and that they include topics such as love, respect, and values. They also stress the need for boys to actually be told to wait before having sex.

Just in case, maybe I’ll send some pepper spray to school with my daughter next year …

For more information on how to talk to your children about relationships, sex, and other risky behavior, check out the following websites:


Children Now

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