Study illustrates gaps in knowledge and lack of support for girls during puberty

June 10, 2019

June 10, 2019 -- A study led by Marni Sommer, DrPH, RN, associate professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, examined girls' transitions through puberty in Madagascar and ways in which menstruation influences their educational experiences and future sexual and reproductive health. The findings, published in the Journal of Early Adolescence, revealed gaps in the girls' knowledge and an absence of support during puberty, varying guidance received about sexuality after the onset of menstruation and the challenges of managing menstruation in school. Until this study little had been known about girls' experiences of puberty in Madagascar, which has among the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy compared with those in other parts of Africa.

"Given the significant gaps in girls' levels of knowledge and support, there was a clear need demonstrated for educational material on puberty for early adolescents, along with teacher training about puberty," said Sommer. The study also found that improved toilet facilities are critically needed to improve menstruating girls' school-going experiences.

According to latest data, there are 145 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in Madagascar compared with an average of 95 per 1,000 for girls in eastern and southern Africa. Madagascar also reports one of the highest rates of early marriage in the world -- almost 41 percent of girls are married by age 18.

Adolescents are the fastest growing population group around the world, including over 1.6 billion young people aged 10 to 19 years, the majority of whom live in low-income countries according to most recent UN data. Adolescent girls in particular are vulnerable in such contexts to negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

To understand the girls' experiences of early adolescence and puberty and the intersections of menstruation with their schooling, Sommer and colleagues conducted qualitative and participatory research - the latter which has been shown to empower participants.

The researchers identified the following overarching themes:The latest study, conducted in partnership with Projet Jeune Leader, confirmed earlier ongoing research by Sommer which showed that girls often receive inadequate guidance and support about their sexual and reproductive health and inadequate access to safe, hygienic water. Toilets in schools were found to hinder girls' ability to manage menstruation safely. "This, in turn, may reduce their active participation in the classroom," according to Sommer.

"Overall, we found that girls faced numerous challenges engaging actively in school while menstruating due to barriers in school environments," said Sommer. "Girls in low-resource countries such as Madagascar have been lacking adequate guidance and information. To make a real difference in their lives, it is critical that we turn global attention to the needs of girls and to early adolescence as a critical stage of transitioning to a healthy adulthood."
-end-
Co-authors are Ava Skolnik, Ana Ramirez, and Mobolaji Ibitoye, Columbia Mailman School; Jana Lee, Grow and Know, Inc.; and Hariniaina Rasoazanany, Projet Jeune Leader, Madagascar.

The study was supported by Grow and Know, Inc.

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www.mailman.columbia.edu.

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Related Puberty Articles from Brightsurf:

Risk of self-harm increases for boys and girls who experience earlier puberty
Boys and girls who experience puberty earlier than their peers have an increased risk of self-harm in adolescence, a study funded by the National Institute for Health Research Bristol Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR Bristol BRC) and published in the journal Epidemiology & Psychiatric Sciences today [Tuesday 6 October] has found.

Study suggests men more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if they go through puberty early
Boys who enter puberty at an early age are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as adults than later developing boys, irrespective of their weight in childhood, according to an observational study following more than 30,600 Swedish men born between 1945 and 1961, published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes).

Differences in airway size develop during puberty, new study finds
Sex differences in airway size are not innate, but likely develop because of hormonal changes around puberty, reports a new study by the University of Waterloo.

First genomic study of puberty yields insights into development and cancer
In the first-ever genome-scale analysis of the puberty process in humans, researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (U of U) outline distinct and critical changes to stem cells in males during adolescence.

Scientists identify new puberty-promoting genes
A team of neuroscientists led by Professor Christiana Ruhrberg (UCL, UK) and Professor Anna Cariboni (University of Milan, Italy) have found two molecules that work together to help set up the sense of smell and pave the way to puberty in mice.

Father's obesity in puberty doubles the risk of asthma in his future offspring
A Norwegian study shows that boys who are obese in pre-puberty have an over two times higher risk of having children with asthma than those who are not.

Research shows puberty changes the brains of boys and girls differently
Scientists have found that brain networks develop differently in males and females at puberty, with boys showing an increase in connectivity in certain brain areas, and girls showing a decrease in connectivity as puberty progresses.

Bone strength could be linked to when you reached puberty
A new study from the University of Bristol has linked bone strength to the timing of puberty.

Study illustrates gaps in knowledge and lack of support for girls during puberty
A study examined girls' transitions through puberty in Madagascar and ways in which menstruation influences their educational experiences and future sexual and reproductive health.

Obesity speeds up the start of puberty in boys, study finds
Girls are not the only ones who go through puberty early if they have obesity.

Read More: Puberty News and Puberty Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.