Positive parenting and early puberty in girls: protective effects against aggressive behavior

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008 Aug;162(8):781-6. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.162.8.781.


Objective: To determine whether positive parenting practices are associated with less aggressive and delinquent behavior in early-maturing girls.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Interviews with a community sample of children and their caregivers were conducted in their homes or in a research setting.

Participants: An ethnically diverse cohort of 330 fifth-grade girls (mean age, 11.25 years) from 3 metropolitan areas.

Main exposure: Early onset of menarche, parental nurturance, knowledge of the child's activities, and communication.

Main outcome measures: Physical, relational, and nonphysical aggression and delinquent behavior.

Results: A total of 25% of girls could be reliably classified as early maturers. Early maturation was associated with delinquency (b = 0.53) but not aggression. Low levels of maternal nurturance were associated with delinquency and relational aggression (both b = -0.04). Early maturation was associated with higher relational aggression only at low levels of nurturance (b = 0.94), communication (b = 1.36), and knowledge (b = 1.06) (P < .05 for each interaction). Also, early maturation only predicted physical aggression when combined with low maternal nurturance (b = 0.93).

Conclusions: Early puberty is a risk factor for delinquency, and early puberty combined with low parental nurturance, communication, or parental knowledge of the child's activities presents a risk for aggressive behavior in early adolescent girls. Early-maturing girls may benefit from increased parental nurturance, communication, and knowledge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / prevention & control
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parenting*
  • Puberty, Precocious / psychology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology