The role of early maturation, perceived popularity, and rumors in the emergence of internalizing symptoms among adolescent girls

J Youth Adolesc. 2011 Nov;40(11):1407-22. doi: 10.1007/s10964-010-9619-1. Epub 2010 Dec 5.


Despite the widely reported link between early pubertal timing and internalizing symptoms among girls, less is known about the peer reputation of earlier maturing girls. The current study assesses whether early maturation is associated with perceived popularity and/or rumors, and whether these reputational factors help account for earlier maturing girls' vulnerability to emotional distress. Drawing on three waves of data collected from an ethnically diverse sample of middle school girls (n = 912), hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that more advanced development at the start of middle school predicted peer- and teacher-reported popularity as well as increased risk of being targeted for rumors. Mediation analyses suggested that popularity among boys can put earlier developing girls at risk for rumors. Finally, rumors acted as a partial mechanism through which early maturation was associated with subsequent internalizing symptoms. Knowledge of the peer mechanisms putting earlier developing girls at risk for psychosocial maladjustment can inform intervention and prevention efforts aimed at improving adolescent well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adjustment Disorders / etiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Puberty / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Concept
  • Self Report
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Desirability*