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Local and Community News

California: Family Life Classes Get Earlier Start

February 27, 2003

Until this year, presentations about the changes that occur at puberty began in the fifth grade for girls and in the sixth grade for boys in California's Roseville City Elementary School District. But beginning next month, when annual lessons are typically taught, they start for girls in fourth grade and for boys in fifth grade.

Officials with the district say they have lowered the grade level at which lessons on human development begin because of requests from parents and teachers. They are seeing that many girls are starting to develop well before the fifth grade.

The medical community is debating research indicating that girls today are reaching maturity at a younger age than previous generations.

Some researchers have questioned the scientific validity of a landmark 1997 study by Marcia Herman-Giddens of the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, which determined that by age 8, 25 percent of African-American girls and 8 percent of white girls are beginning to mature physically. The preponderance of scientific study on the matter since 1997, however, has accepted that girls develop younger and has focused on trying to explain why. Several theories have emerged -- increased obesity during childhood, hormone-laden meat and dairy products, environmental toxins including pesticides and plastics, lack of fiber in the diet, and growing up with unrelated adult males (usually stepfathers) in the household.

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Some school districts in the Sacramento region are responding by teaching children sooner about the development of their bodies. Administrators emphasize that they are not teaching about sexual intercourse, birth control, abstinence or STDs at the fourth- and fifth-grade levels. By state law, parents can excuse their children from any family life courses.

Back to other CDC news for February 27, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Sacramento Bee
02.23.03; Laurel Rosen



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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