Sexual abuse may cause depression and early puberty

60-year-old man sexually assaults two minors in Delhi's Palam area

Washington DC, March 18: A research reveals that girls, who undergo physical abuse early in life, may hit puberty eight to 12 months earlier than their non-abused companions. This increases their chances of developing depression, substance misuse and teenage pregnancy.
According to researchers, sexual abuse, in particular, drives the children to physically mature at an accelerated pace, which is linked to breast and ovarian cancers due to the extended exposure to the hormone oestrogen over a longer period.
“Though a year’s difference may appear trivial in the grand scheme of a life, this quickened maturation has been linked to worrying consequences, including behavioural and mental health problems and reproductive cancers,” said researcher Dr Jennie Noll from Child Maltreatment Solutions Network.
“High-stress conditions, such as childhood sexual abuse, can lead to increased stress hormones that jump-start adolescence ahead of its regular biological timeline,” Dr Noll explained.
The research, conducted at Pennsylvania State University, compared the pubescent trajectories of 84 females with a sexual abuse history and 89 of their non-abused counterparts.
They traced from pre-puberty to full adulthood via a method known as Tanner staging and looked at pubic hair and breast development as two separate markers for pubescent change.
The girls were placed on a calculated scale from one to five: one labelled prepubescence and five marked full maturity.
The conclusions showed that girls with histories of sexual abuse were far more likely to change into high puberty eight months stages earlier than the girls not abused.
When physical maturation exceeds psychosocial growth in this way, the mismatch in the timing obtained is known as maladaptation.
They believe the findings add to the current body of work, thereby highlighting the role of stress in adolescence. (ANI)