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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 110, Issue 5, pp 606–615 | Cite as

Exploring the mediating and moderating roles of body-related concerns and social interactions on the association between early puberty and psychological distress in young adult women

  • Jocelyne ThériaultEmail author
  • Joanne Otis
  • Martine Hébert
  • Stella Gurreri
  • Jean Lambert
Quantitative Research
  • 92 Downloads

Abstract

Objective

To explore the mechanisms through which early puberty is associated with psychological distress in women aged 18–25. This cross-sectional study aims to investigate whether body-related concerns and social interactions moderate or mediate this association.

Methods

Participants were compared on measures evaluating psychological distress, body image dysphoria, bulimic symptomatology and negative intimacy with best friend according to three pubertal timing groups: (1) “very early” puberty (menarche at 9 years old or less), (2) “early” puberty (menarche at 10 years old), and (3) “on-time” puberty (menarche between 11 and 13 years old). Forward stepwise multiple regressions and multiple mediation analysis were successively performed to see whether body-related concerns and peer interactions mediate or moderate the relationship between premature puberty and psychological distress.

Results

Controlling for age and ethnicity, results indicated (1) that women who began puberty “very early” had significantly higher levels of psychological distress than their “on-time” counterparts; (2) the association found between very early puberty and psychological distress was mediated by body image dysphoria and negative intimacy with best friend and was moderated by bulimic symptomatology. No mediational effect was found in women whose puberty was “early”.

Conclusion

These findings highlight the importance of using more than one group of early pubertal timing and the role of body and intimacy concerns in the explanation of psychological distress in women. Intervention strategies addressing the increased risk of psychological distress in women who begin puberty very early should target their body image and ability to form intimate friendships.

Keywords

Early puberty On-time puberty Body image Intimacy Bulimic symptomatology Psychological distress 

Résumé

Objectif

Explorer les mécanismes par lesquels la puberté précoce est associée à la détresse psychologique chez les femmes âgées de 18 à 25 ans. Cette étude transversale vise à déterminer si les préoccupations liées au corps et les interactions sociales modèrent ou médient cette association.

Méthodologie

Les participantes ont été contrastées sur des mesures évaluant la détresse psychologique, la dysphorie de l’image corporelle, la symptomatologie boulimique et l’intimité négative avec la meilleure amie selon trois groupes : (1) puberté « très précoce » (ménarche à 9 ans ou moins); (2) puberté « précoce » (ménarche à 10 ans) et (3) la puberté « synchrone » (ménarche entre 11 et 13 ans). Des régressions multiples pas à pas et des analyses de médiation multiples ont ensuite été effectuées pour déterminer si les préoccupations liées au corps et les interactions avec les pairs médiaient ou modéraient la relation entre la puberté précoce et la détresse psychologique.

Résultats

En contrôlant pour l’âge et l’appartenance ethnique, les résultats ont révélé : (1) que les femmes du groupe de puberté « très précoce » présentaient des niveaux de détresse psychologique significativement plus élevés que leurs homologues dont la puberté était « synchrone »; (2) l’association entre la puberté très précoce et la détresse psychologique était médiée par la dysphorie de l’image corporelle et l’intimité négative avec la meilleure amie et était modérée par la symptomatologie boulimique. Aucun effet médiateur n’a été identifié chez les femmes dont la puberté était « précoce ».

Conclusion

Ces résultats soulignent l’importance d’utiliser plus d’un groupe pour définir la puberté précoce et le rôle des préoccupations de corps et d’intimité dans l’explication de la détresse psychologique chez les femmes. Les stratégies d’intervention visant à contrer le risque accru de détresse psychologique chez les femmes pour qui la puberté commence très tôt devraient cibler leur image corporelle et leur capacité à nouer des relations d’amitiés.

Mots-clés

Puberté précoce Puberté synchrone Image corporelle Intimité Symptomatologie boulimique Détresse psychologique 

Notes

Funding information

The research presented in this paper was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (# 410-2006-2427).

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was approved by the University of Quebec in Montreal’s Research Ethics Board.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jocelyne Thériault
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joanne Otis
    • 1
  • Martine Hébert
    • 1
  • Stella Gurreri
    • 2
  • Jean Lambert
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SexologyUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  3. 3.Department of Social and Preventive Medecine, Faculty of MedecineUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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