Racial disparities in pubertal development

Semin Reprod Med. 2013 Sep;31(5):333-9. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1348891. Epub 2013 Aug 9.


The question of whether or not children, particularly girls, are entering puberty earlier than they did in the past has been a concern in both the medical community and the general population. A secular trend analysis of the current data on pubertal timing in boys and girls is limited by variations in the study design, the population assessed, and the methods used to determine pubertal development. These differences present a challenge when interpreting the available data, especially when comparing multiple studies. The influence of race on pubertal timing and development had not been assessed before the 1970s. The purpose of this article is to review the reported variations in pubertal timing among different racial/ethnic groups. Data suggest African American girls enter puberty earlier and reach menarche earlier than Caucasian and Hispanic girls. In addition, the trend toward earlier timing of puberty seems to be occurring faster in African American girls compared with Caucasian girls over the past 25 years. While the mechanism and understanding of the cause of racial disparities in pubertal development remain to be discerned, genetic and/or environmental factors may play a role and require further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • African Americans
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menarche / ethnology
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Puberty* / ethnology
  • United States