What do First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative and the disproportionate school behavior problems in adolescent boys have to do with each other? Two related stories on the Science Daily website might offer some insight into a connection.
One article “Early, Later Puberty May Trigger Aggression in Boys, Researchers Find” reports that when puberty in adolescent boys comes earlier or later than their peers, it can release chemicals in their bodies that have to do with antisocial behavior. According to Elizabeth J. Susman, the Jean Phillips Shibley professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State, “Aggressive behavior can begin very early, even in pre-school, and might be related to poor impulse control, difficulties in the family or just overall general problem behavior.” Researchers in this study found that the lower levels of a salivary enzyme in antisocial boys correlated with a later onset of puberty and higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Those boys’ behavior was often characterized by more aggression and greater problems with breaking rules and with conduct disorder.
A different article “Childhood Obesity May Contribute to Later Onset of Puberty for Boys” on the Science Daily website suggests that The First Lady’s work to reduce childhood obesity may impact a pathway to violence! A study described in the February 2010 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that increased body fat in boys is connected to a later onset of puberty in boys while increased body fat in girls is connected to an earlier onset of puberty.
The connection between later puberty and childhood obesity is worth exploring as another piece in the puzzle about the over-representation of African-American boys in discipline records at schools and later in the criminal justice system. With childhood obesity at epidemic rates in our country, later puberty in our boys may be the outcome that may be related to antisocial behavior in some of them. This is another reason to monitor your son’s diet and his physical activities.