It might be fair to say that the emotional and intellectual intelligence of the teens as it concerns sex and the choices they make for their selves is only as mature as that of their parents.
This means that there remains much work to be done in helping parents acquire the necessary skills and mindset to engage in coherent and informative conversations about sex with their children when their children are experiencing the gonadal physiological and social changes as a result of early maturation. As Levine has pointed out in her article, the number of female predators that are preying upon adolescent boys has only in recent years drawn the attention of law enforcement as a criminal behavior (p. 357). There are some states, such as Louisiana, that have actually taken steps to limit the school's ability to provide introductory sex education to adolescents (Yoo, Seunghyun, Johnson, Carolyn, Rice, Janet, and Manuel, Powlin, 2007, pp. 329-334). In Louisiana, the state, by choice of the voters, allows the public schools to teach teens only abstinence as a form of birth control (p. 329). Even though there are sexually transmitted diseases that sexually active teens need to be aware of, which could be prevented by use of a condom, the state prohibits discussion on condoms (p. 329). In Louisiana, the consequence of early maturation is the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because the majority of parents are uneasy discussing sex with their children.
The forces beyond the concept of self to which the adolescent becomes susceptible to are serious, but so are those with which the adolescent must contend as a result of their own lack of emotional and intellectual intelligence. J. Sinkkonen, R. Anttila, and M.A. Siimes (1998) examined the early childhood perceptions of self-image as children experienced early maturation (p. 209). They say:
Onset of puberty is known to be a stressful period of life. The young adolescent must face several simultaneous developmental challenges, which are reflected as a gap in self-image. In this study, relationships between biological pubertal events and self-image were analyzed in a sample of 59 healthy adolescent boys from the Helsinki area. Detailed information on pubertal development was collected by a pediatrician at three-month intervals. The subjects filled in the Offer Self-Image Questionnaire at 13 and at 14 years and were interviewed by a child psychiatrist. During the year, self-image increased in four domains: Impulse Control, Emotional Tone, Sexual Attitudes, and Psychopathology. The changes in the first two domains were related to pubertal events. In contrast, changes in emotional health and in sexual attitudes did not correlate with bodily changes or testosterone. As regards body image, differences were not found in relation to age, but in relation to genital stages. These findings indicate that some aspects of self-image develop as a function of psychological and cognitive maturation, while other aspects are related to biological events (p. 329)."
In summary, early maturation is a time of physiological, emotional, intellectual, and social change for children. Most do not have the knowledge or skills with which to manage these changes combined with being sexually active. The implications of the lack of preparedness for that which the level of physiological and psychological awareness that they are beginning to experience range from healthy transitions, to unhealthy, and even abusive situations in which these children are taken advantage of by people they most trust in their lives.
While everyone can understand the need for parents to have control over their child's access to information, the parents ability to communicate information to their child must be a concern to health and public officials. Parents who choose by legal mandate to limit the school's participation in providing information to school children about being sexually prepared and aware, must in turn agree to provide the state with the proper assurances that the children are receiving the information at home. It is likewise imperative that the information be accurate. For that reason, and because early maturation is happening earlier in the lives of children, parents must receive the proper counseling and tools to help them deal with their children's emerging sexuality, physiology, and awareness in ways that are healthy and promote good self-esteem and self-images.
This is an area where the children, parents, and society as a whole would benefit from further studies that help to pave the way for the many issues that children will be confronting as they experience early maturation. Studies should be conducted that provide parents and teachers and health officials with a broader range of information and insight into what the children are thinking, the choices they are making, and the influences in their lives.
Edwards, W.M., & Coleman, E. (2004). Defining Sexual Health: A Descriptive Overview. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33(3), 189+. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5005998311 http://www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001138774
Herdt, G., & Mcclintock, M. (2000). The Magical Age of 10. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29(6), 587. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001138774
Levine, K.L. (2006). No Penis, No Problem. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 33(2), 357+. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5016305588 http://www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=109131965
Renold, E. (2005). Girls, Boys, and Junior Sexualities: Exploring Children's Gender and Sexual Relations in the Primary School. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=109131967 http://www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001346684
Sinkkonen, J., Anttila, R., & Siimes, M. (1998). Pubertal Maturation and Changes in Self-Image in Early Adolescent Finnish Boys. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27(2), 209+. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001346684
Yoo, Seunghyun, Johnson, Carolyn, Rice, Janet, and Manuel, Powlin, Journal of School
Health, 2007, vol 74, pp. 329-334.
By the time a child is ten, as Herdt and Mcclintock say, they begin understanding their physical attractions. This means that as they continue to grow, the child will have a tendency to be drawn to those individuals possessing the physical traits that they find their selves drawn to beginning around age ten. This is not to say that these young children have the intellectual maturity to understand their attraction.