Study: Girls who experience puberty earlier may be more susceptible to teen dating abuse

What do early puberty and dating violence have in common? According to a new study, girls who mature before their peers are more likely to experience domestic abuse as teens.

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In a report recently published in "Pediatrics," researchers analyzed 3,900 girls ages 13 to 17. They determined that 32 percent of those who hit puberty early endured physical or verbal abuse from a boyfriend versus 28 percent of those who went through puberty "on time."

Although the difference is small, the findings suggest that “early-maturing girls may be more vulnerable.” The study said that this is especially true for girls who have a lot of male or older friends and participate in high level risk factors such as underage drinking and fighting.

“Compared with on-time and later-maturing girls, early-maturing girls may be more vulnerable to the effect of these friendship group characteristics because they will have had less time to develop coping skills and may have experienced a variety of hardships that limit their capacity to remove themselves from or resolve situations in sexual or romantic relationships that could become abusive,” the study read.

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Despite the results, scientists revealed that teen dating abuse was common among all age groups. That’s why they recommend that parents, pediatricians and others who work with children have conversations with teenagers about the importance of healthy relationships.