Stress reactivity linked to early puberty

The New York Times had an interesting story the other day, chronicling the increasingly early age at which kids are entering puberty. There are the usual contributors cited for the lower age, including higher BMIs and exposure to environmental chemicals (xeno-estrogens such as BPA,) but the child’s stress reactivity is also listed as a factor.

In a study published in 2011, Bruce Ellis, a professor of Family Studies and Human Development at the University of Arizona, and his colleagues showed that children who are most reactive to stress — kids whose pulse, respiratory rate and cortisol levels fluctuate most in response to environmental challenges — entered puberty earliest.

“Evolutionary psychology offers a theory: A stressful childhood inclines a body toward early reproduction; if life is hard, best to mature young.”

Last week we posted a story about how the infant experience of repeat cortisol-inducing tools parents use, such as “cry it out” and spanking, can lay the foundations for a stress-reactive child.

This new evidence of the role stress reactivity plays in future health lends further reason to refuse these arbitrary cortisol-inducing parenting practices, in favor of gentle parenting.

Source: New York Times (

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