Pubertal timing matters for psychological development. Early maturation in girls is linked to risk for depression and externalizing problems in adolescence and possibly adulthood, and early and late maturation in boys are linked to depression. It is unclear whether pubertal timing uniquely predicts problems; it might instead mediate the continuity of behavior problems from childhood to adolescence or create psychological risk specifically in youth with existing problems, thus moderating the link. We investigated these issues in 534 girls and 550 boys, measuring pubertal timing by a logistic model fit to annual self-report measures of development and, in girls, age at menarche. Prepuberty internalizing and externalizing behavior problems were reported by parents. Adolescent behavior problems were reported by parents and youth. As expected, behavior problems were moderately stable. Pubertal timing was not predicted by childhood problems, so it did not mediate the continuity of behavior problems from childhood to adolescence. Pubertal timing did not moderate links between early and later problems for girls. For boys, early maturation accentuated the link between childhood problems and adolescent substance use. Overall, the replicated links between puberty and behavior problems appear to reflect the unique effects of puberty and child behavior problems on the development of adolescent behavior problems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health