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The Psychology of Antecedents to Adult Reproductive Disorders in Adolescent Girls

Authors

  • Sharon N. Covington,

    1. Integrative Reproductive Medicine Unit, Intramural Research Program on Reproductive and Adult Endocrinology, National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development
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  • Pedro E. Martinez,

    1. Behavioral Endocrinology Branch, National Institutes of Mental Health
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  • Vaishali Popat,

    1. Integrative Reproductive Medicine Unit, Intramural Research Program on Reproductive and Adult Endocrinology, National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development
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  • Radha Nandagopal,

    1. Inter-Institute Pediatric Endocrinology Training Program, Developmental Endocrinology Branch, National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development
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  • Mary Ryan,

    1. National Institutes of Health Library, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
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  • Lawrence M. Nelson

    1. Integrative Reproductive Medicine Unit, Intramural Research Program on Reproductive and Adult Endocrinology, National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development
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Address for correspondence: Sharon N. Covington, M.S.W., LCSW-C; 15001 Shady Grove Road, Suite 220, Rockville, MD 20850. Voice: +1-301-279-7030; fax: +1-301-986-0681. sharon.covington@integramed.com

Abstract

The normal developmental tasks and roles of adolescence are altered by a diagnosis of a reproductive disorder. The crisis of impaired fertility affects both parent and child, stressing the family system. For the adolescent girl, a reproductive disorder has an impact on her developing sense of self, body-image, and sexuality, which, in turn, can affect her self-esteem and relationships with others. Because of the sexual nature of a reproductive disorder, feelings of embarrassment or protectiveness are often engendered that can make it difficult for families to discuss. Nonetheless, families do best with openness and honesty regarding the condition and should be discouraged from keeping the diagnosis a secret. Adolescence encompasses a broad spectrum of emotional maturity, which needs to be considered by parents and clinicians when communicating information. Understanding that the family is an emotional unit, a family systems approach to deal with health issues is most appropriate. In this context, parents need to first deal with their own feelings about the diagnosis, before they can help their child. Secondly, parents must be provided with tools to build an ongoing conversation with their child that will avoid stigmatizing her condition and handicapping her growth into healthy adulthood. The goal for parent and clinician is to help the adolescent girl formulate positive self-esteem and body image, despite impaired fertility.

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