tv Beyond the Headlines ABC November 17, 2013 10:00am-10:31am PST
some mone deposit a check, transfer some money. so it's your uncle's turn. what? wait, wait, wait... no, no, no, wait, wait. (baby crying) so you can deposit a check... with the touch of a finger. so you can arrange a transfer in the blink of an eye. so you can help make a bond... i got it. that lasts a lifetime. the chase mobile app. so you can. ♪ >> i'm cheryl jennings. today's show is focused on a part of life that every person goes through in their life and that is puberty. we're going to talk about girls and boys going through puberty as well as transgender kids. what happens to the body as it
changes? what about all those emotions? and how do you talk to kids about the subject? but one of the things we have learned in our research is that a are entering puberty a lot earlier these days, some as young as 7 years old. there is a long-term government-funded study under way right now about early puberty in girls and whether there is a connection to breast cancer later in life. it's called the cignet study, it includes girls from the san francisco area to the new york. dr. louise interviewed. >> it's looking at why some girls mature earlier than other girls. that's really what it's about. we're looking at a broad constellation of factors. >> joining me in the studio right now is one of the coinvestigators of the cignet
study, dr. louise greenspan a pediatric endocrinologist at kaiser permanente in san francisco. thanks for being here today. >> thanks for having me. >> why is it important to study early puberty? >> doctors have noticed girls are going through puberty earlier in the past. we didn't know exactly how early. we had never been able to follow one group of girls going through development. we didn't know what was happening to each girl as they went through. so we've had the opportunity now to study one group of girls, 1200 girls across the country, and look at them over time to see what's happening. and even though i'm a specialist in puberty, when i see one girl in the office i don't necessarily know what's happening with the larger group of girls. so we can take a group of girls and see how their puberty development plays out. >> i think a lot of us thought puberty for girls started around 11 to 12. >> that's what we used to think. >> there's a new normal now? >> yes.
>> i know we talked about this prior to the show. i want to put a graphic on the screen to show people the numbers. if you don't know this, it's really kind of shocking. so the new normal puberty age is age 7. so if we could have that on the screen right now. if you could talk about this a little bit. >> yes. so when i was in training we were taught that girls should not start puberty until age 8. what we found in the initial paper that came out of our study, at age 7, 15% of girls had breast development and 10% of girls were developing hair already, pubic hair. by age 8, which used to be the lower limit of normal, it was a much higher rate with 27% of the girls having breast development and about 19% having hair. >> so i know that that is alarming to a lot of families who aren't used to this. it kind of changes our brains. we have to think about this differently. so in your study, i know it's a long-term study, it's been going on for years. what are you learning so far. what are some of the triggers do you think? >> we are looking at a lot of different things. so the things that we're
examining are environmental or chemical determinants that may promote early puberty. so for example, we are looking at nutrition, including breastfeeding. our girls at kaiser were girls that were born within keiser. we're able to lock at what kind of feeding their mothers were able to do. and then moving on to asking questions about what they eat on a regular basis now. so we're looking at nutrition. we're looking at location of homes. is your home next to a freeway or is it next to a forest. who's in your home? so for example one thing we found out was girls who are in a home without their biological father are more likely to go through puberty early. so we think about environment, we're thinking about the social environment, who's in your house. >> something a lot of folks wouldn't have thought of. >> no. >> how about food and plastics? >> we're looking at all of that. what we have found is that the more weight a girl carries, the earlier she goes through puberty. we do know we have an increasing obesity problem in this country,
and that may be exacerbating, it may be that the same things that cause obesity cause early puberty. maybe the fat tissues itself is making hormones. or maybe when you're overweight you're exposed to more things because you eat more and you have more skin. carrying more weight is associated with puberty. we're teasing out whether that's causal or not. >> you're going to take these girls from age 7? >> 6 to 8. >> and then how long is this going to go? >> we're going to be hopefully doing ten years now to get them through when they get their first period and the end of their puberty. we're hoping to get more funding in the future to study the girls in a different way. not doing physical exams and detailed things every year but finding out about their health and finding out about their exposures. this study was originally a breast cancer study. because the earlier you are at your first period, the higher the risk of breast cancer. so we do hope overall to keep in touch with these girls for a long time so that we can
continue to learn things from them. >> for families watching right now, what can they do right now to maybe head off early puberty or to help their daughters through this? >> that's a really complex question. i think in general, eating a balanced, healthy diet without a lot of processed foods. we know we're supposed to do that. it's just as a working mom i know how hard that can be. but eating lots of fruits and vegetables. we really try and have half the plate be fruits and vegetables and really focusing on nutrition, focusing on exercise. everybody needs to be physically active every day. that can help. it also i think there's enough data to say whether or not it helps early puberty, we know avoiding plastics and other chemical compounds like that is definitely better for your health. so we suggest trying not to microwave in plastic containers, kind of be aware of whatthy that other chemicals you're putting in your body. >> how much of a relationship is smoking connected to all of this? >> it looks like it might be
associated with early puberty. so if you smoke, smoking outside the house and taking off your coat before you come back in the house and trying not to expose your child to secondhand smoke. secondhand smoke can be more dangerous to children than the smokers smoking itself. >> before we run out of time, i have about 30 seconds left. the problems for girls who go through early puberty. >> yes. so girls who go through early puberty are at risk for some early maturity in terms of risk-taking behavior, like using drugs or drinking. but parents really can be in control and can really have a say in who the kids play with and what sort of they're exposed to. so i think parents need to feel empowered to keep their children children for longer and not be so bothered by the fact are going through puberty. but a 9-year-old is still a 9-year-old no matter what they look like. >> great advice. thank you, dr. greenspan. i really appreciate it. >> thank you. >> we do have to take a break. when we come back we're going to meet some local teenages who are taking part in the study. they're in an open discussion about those often uncomfortable topics.
wow! now that voice... my voice? [ auto-tuned ] what's wrong with my voice? yeah man, bee got swag! be happy! be healthy! that's gotta go too. ♪ hey! must be the honey! [ sparkle ] sweet. welcome back. we're talking about puberty and the increasingly early age young girls are developing. a fascinating continuum of research known as the cignet
study. with me right now to tell us about participation in the study are 15-year-old twins rachel and mya siskin-lavigne and alexandra anderson. i want to start with the twins. i know everybody calls you that, right? >> yes. >> so mya on the end, when did you go through puberty? when did you start? >> i can't remember exactly when. it was pretty early, in the end of elementary school. >> same thing for you, race sne rachel? >> i started a little bit before her but about the same time. >> the same time we started the cignet study, a little later. >> when did your mom enroll you in it? >> my mom told me they were doing this study looking at girls and puberty. i thought okay why not. we kind of just looked at each other and said sure. >> rachel, what was it like for you guys to go through puberty? was it hard? >> it's always a little scary i guess because new things are happening and you're changing and you don't really know what's
going on because you've never done it before. but i mean, my mom was really nice about it. and being in the cignet study helped because we got to learn about what was happening to us. >> oh, fantastic. alexandra, tell me what your role is. >> i do a couple of different things with the study. i'm the community outreach and translation core coordinator. so for the larger cohort of all 400 girls in the study we put on teen talks that let the families come and interact with us and the researchers and do some fun activities and get to know each other and stay engaged. then i also help run the youth advisory board, which is how i know these two lovely ladies. and we meet once a month and get feedback from the girls on different things that the research study is going and how we can improve them. >> right. you also do a lot of projects, too. i know you brought literature here. we've got dvds, literature,
things for the girls. >> the brochure actually the youth advisory board girls put together for the larger cohort to kind of tell them what to expect in their clinic visits this year and to do it in a way that they can relate to. >> yeah. maya, i want to ask you, what's involved in participating in the study? what did you have to do in the beginning? >> we go to clinic once a year. basically they do things like take urine samples. sometimes they take our blood. we just fill out questionnaires about how we're doing, what we eat, that kind of stuff. >> rachel, what kind of questions do they ask? >> a lot of it is about mental health. they'll ask a lot of questions about how we feel about stuff. i remember there was one a ladder we had to rank ourselves how we thought on the social ladder. i didn't know what to put for that one. >> that's always hard, right? i understand that in the beginning they give you pedometers, too? >> yes. >> what was that all about? >> i think they wanted to see how much exercise we were doing
and to see how much activity we got every day. >> and the youth advisory board you're on, how do you like that? >> i really like it. it's really fun to work with other people in the study and help improve things that we use. and i like it because we get to learn a lot more about the research and what our information is actually being used for. >> and rachel, we have some images we want to show people of your involvement, of the girls' involvement we want to show. a lot of girls are involved. there's dr. greenspan. so before we wrap up here, i want to ask you your advice for girls. real quick. maya? >> in terms of puberty, just don't be scared, i guess, and just talk to your mom. just be comfortable with yourself. and things are going to change, but it happens to everyone. >> rachel? >> i'd say kind of similar to what maya said, don't be embarrassed because everyone goes through the same thing. >> alexandra? >> i would just say try to live as healthy a life as you can and exercise and eat well and be active and just enjoy being a
teenager while you can. >> all right. thank you all for being here. thank you for participating in the study. i know there'll be a lot more coming out of this. we're going to take a little break right now. coming up next we're going to ta talk about the challenges of puberty for boys as well as transgender children. so stay with us.
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women in puberty. what about the experiences of boys or transgender children who don't feel at home in the physical body in which they were born. joining me in the studio right now is dr. tetra steinbuchel a psychologist focused on mental health and child development at children's hospital research center in oakland. thank you for being here today. >> thank you for having me. >> this is a topic that is really intriguing to me, because we never talk about this. it's always a little uncomfortable for folks to talk about puberty. for girls the age is changing. how about for boys? what is the normal age and what are you seeing? >> normal age for puberty in boys is age 12 to 14. although there has been a trend to see more early onset puberty enas early as age 10 in boys. >> so we don't know why yet. that's probably something that needs to be studied. so the changes that the body goes through for new parents for boys, we don't think about that very often. but there are a lot of them. >> there are a lot of changes. so increased and overall height
as well as development of an adam's apple, broadening of shoulderers, kind of increased musculature all over and deepening of voice, and of course increased under hair und arms, pubic hair and sometimes chest hair. >> and then the emotions. >> and then the emotions. >> all those emotions. >> yes. so puberty is driven by increase in testosterone in boys. and that goes along with a lot of different behaviors. and so kind of one of the tasks of adolescence is to test boundaries and to try new things and explore. and parts of the brain in adolescence that regulate emotion are almost developed to the point of adult size. but other parts of the brain, the frontal area that's involved in more inhibition and being able to kind of think through and plan things is not as well-developed. so you get these huge emotional swings and really strong waves of emotion that can kind of take
over behavior. >> now, you talked abouting taking for boys. the testosterone and risk taking. kids always have -- teenagers always think they're immortal, right? >> yes. so teenagers often have the experience of, i'm never going to die. a and just really want to push boundaries. they end up trying a lot of new things. they have more and more independence as they go through adolescence and more and more opportunity to engage in risk-taking behavior. and leads that leads to accidents, accident rates are higher in general. and also substance abuse at times. >> because it's all part of that risk-taking behavior? >> all part of that exploration and risk-taking behavior. >> moms and dads who see their little boy growing into a man and not talking to them. maybe he wants his own room. is that all part of it? >> it's normal to want some privacy. it's normal to want to engage in relationships outside the home and kind of explore deeper intimacy with friends and/or romantic relationships. so it's very normal to have
that. and often teenagers do kind of a push-pull phenomenon. they really want to on the one hand engage their parents and make sure their parents are going to be there to support them, then also they want to push them away and assert their independence and explore these other relationships outside their family. >> then also you've got these children who are transgender and they're confused. that is such -- i can't even imagine how difficult that must be for them. can you talk about that a little? >> yes. there's a whole spectrum of kind of sexuality and sexual development. and it's such a long process in teenagers as they kind of go on into adulthood and figure out who they are and who they want to be in the world. and it's often a time of trying on different hats and exploration. and in forming intimate relationships may
intimacy with whether they might be straight or gay or bisexual but feel uncomfortable in thundershower own body and want to be the other gender. sometimes that happens early, as early as age 2. sometimes it happens during adolescence, during the time of exploration. and it can bring up a lot of difficult feelings because it's not considered what falls inside social norms. >> sure. in our final 30 second, what's your best advice for families how to get through all of this? >> i think really starting with good building blocks, having good relationships, teaching good rules and responsibilities when kids are younger, age 6 to 11, and then really just having an open stance and trying to create trust. because as kids push more physical boundaries and are outside the home more, what you really have is trust. so you want to maintain that relationship and let them know that you're going to love them and accept them no matter what. >> and we'll all get through this together?
>> that's right. >> thank you so much, dr. steinbuchel. i appreciate all your advice. we have to take another break. coming up next we're going to hear what one local teenager is teaching girls not to be afraid when puberty strikes. [ male announcer ] step one, prepare for triumph. step two, baconated cheese for awesome. step three, get ready to wow. step four... mmmmm. ♪ [ male announcer ] pillsbury crescents. make the holidays pop. he loves me. he loves me not. he loves me. he loves me not. ♪ he loves me! that's right. [ mom ] warm and flaky in 15, everyone loves pillsbury grands! [ girl ] make dinner pop!
i recently spoke with niharika bedekar by skype from india where she was traveling following her graduation from saratoga high school. >> thanks so much for being with us today. >> thank you for having me. >> you had a good experience with puberty. and then you decided to do something to help other people. so first tell me about your puberty situation, how old you were and what happened. >> i was actually 9 when i got my first period. and even though i wasn't precocious, i did mature a lot earlier than any of my peers. and i was the one in the locker room who was a little awkward, a lot more mature than everyone else. but back then i had a really great support group. so it didn't even faze me. it was just another part of my life. >> what did you decide to do as a result of that good experience? >> when i got into high school and as i got older i started realizing that early puberty can actually have a lot of negative consequences. and so when i got into high school i wanted to just show other girls that like no matter
when you start, even if you're a little earlier in your period you're very normal. i wanted to kind of help them like not make them as scared of the process. so i created a support group. and it's called puberty education support, p.e.s. and talk to young girls about puberty. >> you also worked with a doctor at pa arkz lrkalo alto medical >> yes. i worked with a doctor and she gave me a lot of great advice on how to first start the ground work for my support group. >> when you go and speak to these groups such as the girl scouts, how do you open this up? it's always kind of awkward for people to talk about, right? >> definitely. so before i go in, one of the really great things is that when they're in their girl scout troop they're a lot more comfortable than they would be if they were around their parents or doctors and stuff. so that's one benefit.
but i always start off with ice breakers. do some fun like oh, what's your name? what's your favorite animal? what's your favorite activity to do? just to kind of like they get to know me and i get to know them. it just breaks the ice a little bit. >> sure. and then at the end of this discussion, do they ask you questions? and have some of them already gone and started their period? >> yeah. actually so i have a formal question and answer session at the end of my presentation. and i also give my e-mail and stuff if they want to contact me privately. and it's kind of funny. during the presentation at the beginning they won't have admitted that they've started their period that they're maturing a little earlier. by the end of it during the question and answer session they feel free to talk about their own experience. it creates trust in the girls which i think is really great. >> what is the biggest thing that comes up when you're talking to these girls? do they talk about their most embarrassing moments or scary? >> they're very worried that it's going to be like some
traumatic and like embarrassing experience and going to be like shunned by everyone else. i remember this one girl asked if people would laugh at her if she started maturing. i think it's just normal worries about growing up and like being a teenager is awkward for everyone. and going through puberty at the same time doesn't help at all. so it's mostly just like teenage embarrassments. >> the other piece of this it's not just about getting your period but your body changes in many ways. how do you deal with that? >> so i tell them exactly like what is happening to their bodies. i go head to toe and tell them what's going to happen. i also tell them that their emotion are going to change. going to start becoming a little more emotionally mature. through that they ask me questions. they ask about a little more grownup topics. at the beginning it's a little like teasing, kind of immature. by the end it gets a lot more -- their topics become a lot more serious and stuff. >> and then i know that you want to do something fun at the end kind of to bring it back. you give them a little gift or a
little fun pack or something? >> yeah. so i actually do it with the girls. i make period packs. so in the period pack is everything that they would need if they were ever caught unawares by their period. so an extra pad, a clean pair of underwear. and i always put chocolate in there. chocolate always helps everything. things to calm them down if that ever happens and make sure they're not really worried and like they start freaking out or anything. >> i think you also put a calendar in there, too. >> yeah. so the calendar is actually so if they use that they'll never have to use the period pack in the first place. so the calendar just kind of helps track their monthly -- their cycles and everything. >> all right. and what are your final words of advice for young girls who are facing this situation or going through it right now? what would you say? >> every girl since the beginning of time has had to go through puberty. so no matter when you start, if it's early or even if it's a lot later, or if you think you're going at a different rate than everyone around you, you're completely normal and you're
going to come out like a beautiful song, an independent woman. it's going to be great. so just be calm and enjoy it. because teenage years can be fun at the same time. >> and you're a beautiful, strong you woman yourself, niharika. i appreciate it. >> thank you. >> she is going on to attend stanford university this fall. and that is all the time we have for today. a special thanks to all of our wonderful guests today. for more information about today's program just go to our web site, abc 7 news.com/community. we're also on facebook and follow
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