Facts & Figures

Daughter looking a phone and ignoring her mother

Watchful parents help early-maturing girls avoid alcohol abuse

Girls who hit puberty early are at sharply higher risk of abusing alcohol as teens if their parents don’t keep tabs on them, new research shows.

The researchers followed 957 girls from a small town in central Sweden over a four-year period, starting when the girls were 12 to 14 years old. Roughly 20per cent of the girls had their first period before age 12 (“early maturing”), about 60per cent first menstruated at age 12 or 13 (“on-time”), while the remaining 20per cent had their first period after age 13 (“late-maturing”).

Alcohol abuse rose in all three groups as the girls got older. But among the on-time and late-maturing groups, levels of autonomy granted by parents (based on the girls’ own perception) weren’t associated with rates of alcohol abuse.

For the early-maturing group, however, parental autonomy granting made a big difference. Early-maturing girls whose parents gave them the least autonomy – that is, girls whose parents kept the tightest rein – had an 84per cent increase in alcohol abuse from seventh to tenth grade, while those given “medium” autonomy had a 160per cent increase in alcohol abuse. For those given the most autonomy, alcohol abuse increased by 234per cent.

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