A CPP diagnosis can feel isolating, as if no one else knows what you and your child are going through. But while CPP is rare, it’s much more common among children—particularly girls—of certain ethnic groups.
In general, Black and Hispanic girls experience the onset of puberty earlier than white and Asian girls. In Black girls, puberty is considered precocious if symptoms arise before they reach 6.6 years of age. For Hispanic girls, that age is 6.8 years, and for white girls, that age is eight years. Unfortunately, research is still limited for girls of other races.
CPP Diagnoses Vary by Ethnic Group
In one landmark CPP study, researchers reported the incidence of breast bud and pubic hair development in 17,000 US girls aged 3-12 years. At the time, these changes were considered precocious in girls of all races younger than eight years old. But scientists found that—according to the established eight-year definition— 25% of the participating Black girls had precocious puberty.
Age of Regular Puberty Varies by Ethnic Group, Too
Compared to white girls, Black girls experience “more accelerated sexual maturation… as indicated by the initiation of pubic hair and breast development, as well as menarche” (a girl’s first menstrual period). Research shows that, on average, Black girls experience their first period between 12.1-12.3 years of age, while white girls experience their first period at 12.6-12.9 years of age. It’s worth noting that these findings were adjusted for height and weight (body mass index) and socioeconomic status, meaning ethnicity was the only variable.
Regardless of your child’s race, it’s still a good idea to ask their doctor about CPP if they exhibit puberty symptoms (like breast bud growth, a growth spurt, menstruation, mood swings, body hair, and body odor) before they turn eight. There may be less obvious physical symptoms a physician can test for. And if your child’s healthcare provider does diagnose them with CPP, the two of you may agree to initiate CPP treatment in order to avoid long-term complications.
That said, awareness of how CPP definitions vary by race can empower you to better understand your child’s options and the best course of action for their well-being. Ultimately, the more you know, the more fiercely you can advocate for your child.