Psychological Characteristics and Parental Concerns of Girls with Precocious Puberty

Background

• Precocious puberty among females refers to the development of secondary sexual characteristics before the age of 8 years (Grumbach & Styne, 1998).
• Studies suggest that compared with normal developing girls, precocious pubescent girls were associated with higher risks for depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, and externalizing problem behaviors and they rated themselves as less popular and “older-looking” than their peers (Ehrhardt et al., 1984; Jackson & Ott, 1990; Sonis et al, 1985).
• These phenomena have not yet been explored in Korean populations and psychological adjustment of precocious pubescent females needs to be evaluated in this under-studied population.
• The present study thus examined psychological characteristics and parental concerns among a group of precocious pubescent females relative to those of normally developing peers in Korea.

Methods

Participants

330 girls of age 6 – 12 were recruited and of these, 218 were diagnosed with precocious puberty. Those who did not complete measures were excluded from the analyses. Thus 87 precocious pubescent girls and 39 girls undergoing normal maturation were selected as the final participants.

Instruments

– Demographics questionnaire and parental concerns: Demographics of the participants and the parental concerns were collected.
– Medical examination: basic physique, physical components, blood hormonal concentration were examined to evaluate the maturation stage.
– The Revised Body-Esteem Scale (Mendelson & White, 1993): Perceived body-esteem of appearance and weight was measured.
– Maturity Fears Scale (Sinton, Davison & Birch,2005): Attitude towards her pubertal changes was measured.
– Emotional adjustment questionnaire: Recent emotional state was measured.

Analysis

Descriptive analysis and independent t-test were conducted.

Results

• Girls with precocious puberty showed significant differences in maturity fears. Specifically, differences were found in awareness of maturation (t = 4.614, p < .001), weight and body-shape discontent (t = 2.069, p < .05), and perceived timing of maturation(t = -3.293, p < .01).
• However, no differences in body-esteem and emotional adjustment were found between the precocious puberty group and control group.

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