A semi-regular attempt (in other words, as I have time) to explore the interaction between God and the adolescent world, especially the connection between theory and praxis (otherwise known as practical theology). Primary emphasis will be given to the role of the church (and especially the emerging church) in this process.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Childhood Obesity and Puberty

Two recent items which are related, in my mind.

Recent research by the University of Michigan suggests that the recent rise in childhood obesity appears to be causing girls to reach puberty at an earlier age. Experts have long acknowledged the age decline in puberty for both sexes, attributing it to many factors. Most of them have to do with the fact that the more advanced a culture becomes, the less danger there is from issues which typically impact children: childhood diseases, infant mortality, child abuse, etc. Also, as science and medicine has advanced, our health improves, we eat better, and this helps to lower the age of puberty.

Second item is a segment from the Today Show I watched this morning titled "Is 'Hooking Up' Unhealthy for Teens?" Two authors discuss what "hooking up" means, and the implications. The younger author basically makes the case that hooking up is the norm for girls her age, and can actually be a form of empowermemt. She states, "Really, what we need to address is helping girls make better decisions. And I think that means not dictating that it's wrong to hook up outside a relationship and it's right to hook up inside a relationship, but saying, 'You know, you really need to think about what feels good for you.'"

Are the two items related? Yes. The article states that “Earlier onset of puberty in girls has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes, including psychiatric disorders and deficits in psychosocial functioning, earlier initiation of alcohol use, sexual intercourse and teenage pregnancy and increased rates of adult obesity and reproductive cancers.”

So, how do we address this issue? We obviously don't want to go back to higher rates of childhood disease or infant mortality. But we can begin focusing on helping children eat healthier, exercise more, and teaching them guidelines for not giving in to our sex-obsessed culture by showing them what Christ expects.

What guidelines would you suggest?

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