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in general it makes its appearance earlier in persons of a nervous or
nervo-bilious temperament than in persons of a lymphatic temperament
or phlegmatic nature.
Certain nationalities and families are marked by the earlier occurrence
of puberty than in others. In Jews, the change is commonly a year or
two in advance of other nationalities in this country. It also occurs
somewhat sooner in negroes and creoles than in white persons, the
African race seeming to retain something of the precocity occasioned
by the tropical influence of its native clime.
Remarkable Precocity.--Cases occasionally occur in which puberty makes
its appearance at the age of three or four years. Indeed, a case has
been reported in this country in which a female child possessed all
the characteristics which are usually developed at puberty, from birth.
In this case the regular periodical changes began at birth.
Premature Development Occasions Early Decay.--A fact which is of too
great importance to allow to pass unnoticed, is that whatever occasions
early or premature sexual development, also occasions premature decay.
Females in whom puberty occurs at the age of ten or twelve, by the time
their age is doubled, are shriveled and wrinkled with age. At the time
when they should be in their prime of health and beauty, they are
prematurely old and broken. Those women who mature late retain their
beauty and their strength many years after their precocious sisters
have become old, decrepit, and broken down. Thus, the matrons of thirty
and forty years in colder climates are much more attractive in
appearance than the maidens of sixteen; while quite the reverse is true
in this and other countries where sexual development is unduly
Early Puberty a Cause for Anxiety.--The unnaturally early appearance
of puberty is a just cause for apprehension, since it usually indicates
an inherent weakness of the constitution. When there are reasons for
fearing its occurrence, active measures should be taken to occasion
delay if possible. We call especial attention to this point, since there
are many who erroneously suppose the early occurrence of puberty to
be a sign of superior vigor.
Changes which Occur at Puberty.--The changes which occur in the two
sexes at this period have been thus described:--
"In both sexes, hair grows on the skin covering the _symphysis pubis_,
around the sexual organs, and in the axillae (armpits). In man, the
chest and shoulders broaden, the larynx enlarges, and the voice becomes
lower in pitch from the elongation of the vocal cords; hair grows upon
the chin, upper lip, and cheeks, and often exists upon the general
surface of the body more abundantly than in woman." The sexual organs
undergo enlargement, and are more frequently excited. The testicles
first begin the secretion of the seminal fluid.
"In woman, the pelvis and abdomen enlarge, but the whole frame remains
more slender, the muscles and joints less prominent, the limbs more
rounded and tapering [than in the male]. Locally, both external and
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