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August 1994

Timing and Rate of Sexual Maturation and the Onset of Cigarette and Alcohol Use Among Teenage Girls

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pediatrics (Drs Wilson, Robinson, and Hammer), Medicine (Drs Killen and Robinson and Ms Varady), and Psychiatry (Drs Hayward, Kraemer, and Taylor), Stanford (Calif) University.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148(8):789-795. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1994.02170080019004

Objective:  To test the hypothesis that the patterns of pubertal progression, early vs late puberty and fast vs slow, are associated with the age at which girls start to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes.

Design:  The study included 1463 female students, 10.7 to 18.2 years of age, who were assessed five times during the 2.7-year study. Data regarding pubertal stage, alcohol use, and cigarette use were obtained at each assessment. These data were used to calculate two indexes of pubertal development, the age at which the midpoint of puberty was achieved and the rate of progression through puberty, and the ages when each subject first drank, first drank moderate amounts of alcohol, and first smoked.

Results:  Girls with earlier puberty (midpoint <12.2 years) first reported drinking any alcohol at a median age of 12.5 years, 0.7 years younger than girls whose puberty was later. Similarly, girls with earlier puberty reported drinking moderate amounts of alcohol at a median age of 13.7 years, 0.9 years younger than girls with later puberty. Girls with earlier puberty further reported first smoking cigarettes at a median age of 12.8 years, 0.6 years younger than girls with later puberty. The rate of pubertal progression was significantly associated only with the age when girls first drank moderate amounts of alcohol.

Conclusion:  Earlier puberty is associated with a younger age of onset for both drinking and smoking among adolescent girls.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148:789-795)