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Puberty


When Puberty Begins

Girls most commonly begin a rapid growth period between the ages of 12-14 years, but some start this growth spurt as early as age nine. By the time they are 14, most girls have reached their adult height.

Menstruation generally begins about three-fourths of the way through this rapid growth period. Breast changes and the growth of body hair precede the beginning of menstruation by about one year.

The pattern for boys is somewhat different. The period of rapid adolescent growth for boys begins after age 12 and continues for about four years.

The onset of the various features of puberty for boys occurs throughout this period. Boys commonly do not reach their adult height until several years after girls and may continue to grow and to develop secondary sex characteristics, such as chest hair, well into the late teen years. Other hormones also shape pubescence.

In boys, androgen and in girls, estrogen sparks the development of secondary sex characteristics.

A Time of Self-Discovery

Puberty is a time of physical, emotional, and social exploration and self-discovery. Associated with the physical changes that characterize puberty is a growth in sexual interest.

For most youths, this involves increased attentiveness to the opposite sex or heterosexual attraction; for others it involves an enhanced same-sex interest or homosexual attraction.

Because of social disapproval, young people who find themselves sexually attracted to members of their own sex may undergo considerable emotional distress, isolation, and sexual guilt.

However, the onset of bodily changes (at different times and at different rates among different youths), the beginnings of sexual interest and incipient romantic attractions, and the lack of a clear social role can contribute to uncertainty and confusion among both heterosexual and homosexual youths.

Feelings of sexual attraction are part of the search for self-understanding and part of the normal developmental process called puberty.

Coypright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute


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