Do you have a daughter that has matured earlier than her friends? Does she have a body that’s older than her years, and does she hang around with older kids? If so, your involvement and supervision may be even more important. Researchers have found that girls who mature earlier than their peers may be at an increased risk of alcoholism if parental involvement is low.
Researchers worked with almost 1,000 girls between the ages of 12-14 in Sweden, and the girls were surveyed at regular intervals through 10th grade. At each interval, the girls were asked about their perceptions of freedom and responsibility as granted by their parents, their frequency of alcohol intoxication, and their age at first menstruation. The researchers were hoping to see if early maturation increased “the risks associated with poor parental supervision because early maturing girls befriend older, deviant peers who consume alcohol as part of their oppositional identity”.
What the researchers found was that girls who matured earlier had friends who were older and who reported higher rates of alcohol abuse. So girls who matured earlier tended to hang with older kids who had older-kid habits. They also found that girls who matured earlier (as defined by starting their period before the age of 12) and who were given higher levels of autonomy had higher increases in adolescent alcohol abuse. So these more-mature-looking girls (who were hanging with older friends) had an increased likelihood of abusing alcohol if they were given more freedom by their parents.
What does this all mean? The researchers made a point of noting that their findings should not support “paternal restrictiveness” as a solution, meaning severely limiting what your child does is not the answer. Instead, they suggest more parental involvement, because close family ties encourage an association with prosocial, non-deviant friends. So talk to them more, involve yourself more in their lives, and facilitate their befriending of other kids their age.