Here's some of the interesting observations:
It is well known that young people who experience puberty early have a higher risk of depression, substance use, disruptive behaviors and various other conditions, yet researchers had not before investigated whether these youth were also more susceptible to victimization.
The current findings are based on data from nearly 7,000, 11- to 15-year-olds from 132 schools across the country.
Overall, teens who experienced puberty early -- who perceived themselves as looking older than most of their peers -- had a much greater risk of being involved in a physical fight, having a knife or gun pulled on them, being jumped or otherwise being victimized than did other teens, Piquero and Haynie report. This was particularly true for boys, they write in this month's Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.
Yet, among boys who matured early, those with a higher proportion of female friends appeared to be less likely to experience subsequent victimization. A similar association was not found among early-maturing girls, however.
"(It) seems to be a lot like marriage -- females are really good for men," Piquero said. "Women seem to help curtail men's bad experiences."
Girls who hit puberty early, in contrast, tended to have more older friends than did boys who matured early.
Socializing with older people "places these kids in difficult situations that they may not be cognitively able to handle," Piquero said, explaining that, although a 13-year-old may start hanging out with a 16-year-old, he or she "may not be at the 16-year-old level yet."
Lower levels of victimization were reported among teens from two-parent families -- as were 74 percent of the study participants -- those with more highly educated parents, and those who reported having higher levels of attachment with their parents. White teens also reported lower levels of victimization than did teens of other races, study findings indicate.