Girls who mature earlier than their peers are at a greater risk for problem drinking compared to their later developing counterparts, according to a recently published study in the journal of Pediatrics.
Daniel Dickson from Florida Atlantic University and his colleagues at Örebro University investigated the link between adolescent alcohol abuse and perceived parental autonomy granting (i.e., the child’s perception of self-determination) among early, on-time and late-maturing Swedish girls ages 12 to 14. Self-reported age of first menstruation was used to categorize girls as early maturing (before age 12), on-time (between ages 12 and 13) and late maturing (after age 13).
The researchers found that girls who matured early perceived themselves as having more freedom and autonomy from parents, which increased their propensity to experience alcohol problems. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) also revealed that early maturing girls in seventh grade had friends who were older and who reported higher rates of alcohol abuse compared to their peers in the on-time and late maturing groups. The researchers concluded that “early maturing girls entering secondary school with minimal supervision from parents are at a considerable risk for dramatic increases in problem drinking.”
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that 8.7 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 have drank alcohol in the past month. There are many motivating factors influencing adolescent girls’ decision to engage in alcohol abuse such as negative self-image, depression, adjustment difficulties or problems fitting in with peers.
Fortunately, earlier studies have found that adolescents’ involvement in activities and sports, close peer relationships and family involvement can reduce the likelihood that they will develop problematic alcohol use and many protective factors exist that help provide these adolescents with resilience.
This study emphasizes the unique difficulties faced by girls who mature earlier than their peers as well as the importance of perceived parental supervision on adolescent drinking behaviors. Although early maturity of adolescent girls emerged as a significant factor for increased alcohol abuse in the present study, this does not necessarily mean that all girls who mature early will go on to develop alcohol problems in adolescence or later in life.
If you know someone battling alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction please contact the Arizona Alcohol Addiction Helpline at any time. We can connect you to the best possible treatment program built to help with your particular circumstances.
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