Early puberty may increase alcohol abuse risk in girls

New York: The risk of alcohol abuse arising from inadequate parental supervision is particularly high for girls who reach puberty early, warns a study.

“Early maturing girls are quite distinct from their age mates and often seek the company of older peers, so as not to stand out physically,” said one of the researchers Brett Laursen from Florida Atlantic University in the US.

“Affiliation with older peers creates vulnerability, because influence is not equally distributed between friends, and younger partners tend to adopt the drinking habits of older partners,” Laursen explained.

The researchers followed 957 girls in a small city in Sweden for four years, across the ages of 13 to 17.

The girls were classified as early maturing (menarche before age 12), on-time maturing (menarche at age 12 or 13), or late maturing (menarche at age 14 or older) on the basis of their age at first menstruation.

This study examined over-time associations between parent autonomy granting and adolescent alcohol abuse during a developmental period when alcohol consumption becomes increasingly normative.

Results of the study revealed that alcohol consumption increased in all of the girls as they got older.

For “on time” and “late maturing” girls, parental autonomy granting did not have much of an impact on rates of alcohol abuse.

However, for early maturing girls, parental autonomy granting made a big difference.

For early maturing girls whose parents kept a close eye on them, there was an 84 percent increase in alcohol abuse from the seventh to the 10th grade.

Those granted average levels of autonomy by parents had a 160 percent increase in alcohol abuse, and finally, those given the most autonomy had the highest rates of alcohol abuse, with intoxication frequency increasing an average of 234 percent.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.