BackgroundThe relationship between pubertal onset and tempo and pubertal growth is controversial. We hypothesized that the age at onset of girls' puberty predicts pubertal tempo and the rate of pubertal progression.
MethodsWe analysed the data of 380 girls from the prospective Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), who were recruited in the USA from 1991-2006 and followed from birth to age 15.5 years. We used the following indicators: thelarche age (Tanner stage B2), pubarche age (P2), menarche age (M), the age when breast (B5) and pubic hair (P5) became fully mature, pubertal growth, pubertal duration (time from B2 to B5), pubertal progression (time from B2 to M). We clustered the girls according to B2 age into early onset (EO;<9.4 years), intermediate (IO;9.4-10.5 years), late onset (LO;>10.5 years).
ResultsAll indicators of pubertal onset and conclusion occurred earlier in the EOs than in the LO; yet, the differences in the age at main pubertal milestones lessened as puberty progressed: two years for B2; -1.4 years for M; - one year for B5. In EO, puberty was one year (average) longer than in LO. Although EO grew 7 cm (average) more than LO, their heights at B5 were comparable. There was a significant relationship between the thelarche age and puberty tempo (r=0.23, P<0.0001).
ConclusionsThe study highlights the predictive nature of variation in the onset age of puberty on its progression and duration. These results are reassuring in this context and will add to clinicians' and parental understanding of the expected milestones of puberty.