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J Natl Med Assoc. 2000 Jan;92(1):10-4.

Physical growth, sexual maturation, body image and sickle cell disease.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of South Alabama, Mobile 36617-2293, USA.



This study assessed delays in physical growth and sexual maturation, self-esteem and body image in youth with homozygous sickle hemoglobin disease (HgbSS).


A consecutive sample of 30 subjects age 8 through 19 with homozygous sickle cell disease (hemoglobin SS) and a similar number of control subjects matched for age, race, gender and socioeconomic status and free of chronic illness were examined for height, weight and Tanner staging of sexual development. Subjects also completed the Body Cathexis Scale and Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale. Assessments were with paired samples t-tests.


The subjects with sickle cell disease had significantly lower weights and were shorter than matched control subjects. Sexual development (physical) was also delayed in the sickle cell subjects. The study failed to find significant differences for either body image or self-esteem.


The latency age and adolescent subjects with sickle cell disease had significant delays in physical (height, weight, secondary sexual characteristics) maturation. The study failed to find significant differences in either self-esteem or body image between the two groups. Theoretical constructs from the literature were presented which questioned the belief that these expected delays in physical growth and sexual maturation have an adverse effect upon self-esteem and body image.

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