Puberty Leads to Sexual Maturity in Children

Puberty is the most important biologic facet of teenage development in which a child becomes an adult.

Puberty has two main components:

The biologic process:

As a result of the physiological changes a child becomes an
adult in size, form, abilities and thoughts.

Pubertal changes:

It signifies the appearance of secondary sex characters
and sexual development
that results in ability to reproduce.



Hormonal changes associated with puberty

Massive hormonal changes set in during late preteens and continue through the teens till they are stabilized to mature adult levels.

How the hormones’ sudden surge is triggered during adolescence, is yet not fully understood.

It is believed to be partly due to ongoing neuronal development during teenage development.

The onset of this hormonal cycle results in sequential physical and physiological changes seen during the growth spurt of puberty.

The secondary sex characters

The newly acquired physical characteristics during this phase of
childhood development are evaluated for Sexual Maturity Rating (SMR).

"Click here for the links to its diagrammatic representation"

Stages of Sexual Development in Girls

SMR

1

2


3


4

5

Breast

Preteens

Breast & Papilla elevated as small mound
Areolar diameter increased

Breast & Areola enlarged
No contour demarcation


Areola & Papilla form secondary mound

Mature
Nipple projects
Areola part of general breast contour

Pubic Hair

Preteens

Sparse & Straight
Lightly pigmented
Growth at medial border of labia

Darker
Beginning to curl
Increased in amount

Coarse & Curly
Amount less than that in adults

Adult feminine triangle distribution
May spread to medial surface of thigh

Stages of Sexual Development in Boys

SMR Stage

1

2



3


4



5

Pubic Hair

None

Scanty
Long
Slightly pigmented


Darker
Beginning to curl
Small amount

Coarse & Curly
Resembles adults’ type
Amount less than that in adults

Adult male distribution
Spread to medial surface of thigh

Penis

Preteens

Slight
enlargement


Longer


Larger
Glans enlarges
Breadth increases



Adult size

Testes

Preteens

Scrotum enlarged
Skin color pinkish
Skin texture change

Larger



Larger
Scrotum darkens




Adult size

The rating of signs of sexual development is known by the name of its founder J. M. Tanner who depicted them as illustrations:
“Tanner scale for BOYS(opens new window)
“Tanner scale for GIRLS”, (opens new window).

The age of onset of sexual development is very variable

Even without any associated disorder, children pass through the stages of sexual development at different ages depending on their indivdual age of its onset.

The age of onset of puberty
In Girls

Stages of Puberty in Girls



Early signs of sexual maturity 
that mark stage II on Tanner scale can present any time between 8 and 13 years in girls; the average age being 11 years. Therefore, strict dance training between 10 and 18 years of age can delay the onset of puberty and interfere with the speedy height gain of teenage.

The age of onset of puberty
In Boys

Stages of Puberty in Boys


The early signs of sexual maturity
that mark stage II on Tanner scale
can present
in boys
between 10 and 14 years;
the average age being 12.5 years.


Both in boys and girls the completion of Tanner stages, that is attainment of complete sexual maturity, usually takes 3-5 years.

Development of secondary sex characters in Girls

This is most marked by breast development, pubic hair growth and the
onset of monthly menstruation cycle.

How does the menstrual cycle biology work?
Is basal body temperature charting helpful?
Oh, so many questions crop up!

Given below is the graphic representation of the age variation for development and maturation of sex characters in pubertal girls.

Puberty: Signs of Sexual Development in Girls

Breast development in Girls

A baby is born with tiny breast buds. These tiny breast buds act as seedlings for the breast development under the influence of hormones in girls during teenage.

Breast development usually continues 2-3 years after the attainment of sexual maturation, but in some young girls it may continue for as long as 10 years.

The size of breast varies depending on the genetic constitution of the teenage girl.

Besides, breast's glandular tissue and the fat content along with underlying muscle (pectoralis major/chest muscles) development also contribute to the size, firmness and shape of the breasts.

To a certain extent young girls could increase their breast size and improve the firmness by developing underlying pectoralis major muscle.

Breasts undergo physiological enlargement and engorgement during pregnancy and lactation. The color of the nipple is also darkened under the effect of hormones of pregnancy.

For further details on normal development of breast, please click here (opens new window).

Breast cancer is very rare in adolescents.

Teenagers can often feel lumps in their breast.
Should they worry about them?
No.

Vast majority of teenage breast lumps are fibroadenomas or just engorged glands related to normal hormones’ level fluctuations during the menstrual cycle.

What should a teenage girl do if she finds a lump in her breast?

If there is any cause for concern, consult your doctor at the earliest. All the information given here can Never replace examination and evaluation by your doctor.
If you wish to read more on the subject click here (opens new window).

Delayed puberty: Causes

  • Constitutional short stature

    Constitutional short stature is usually associated with delayed onset of sexual development. Consequently, delayed great growth spurt of adolescence;
    here is the graphic representation of growth variations.

    Affected children are therefore called late bloomers.
    Wish to read more on late bloomers?
    Read under "Child Growth Variations".

    Constitutional delay of growth and sexual maturation is more common in boys than in girls.

    These children may present severe emotional, psychological and social consequences despite of being medically absolutely normal.

  • Chronic systemic diseases

    Chronic sickness in children can lead to maturational delay or pubertal failure:

    a.) Anorexia nervosa

    b,) Under nutrition

    c.) Intensive exercise like strict dance training between 10-18yrs.of age.

    d.) Hypothyroidism

    e.) Disorders of ovarian function, for example Turner’s syndrome

    f.) Disorders of testicular functions

    g.) Other hormonal disorders

Precocious puberty: Causes

  • Idiopathic early onset of normal sexual development : No known cause

  • Secondary to underlying hormonal disorder.

  • An abnormal mechanism causing advanced development.

Early medical consultation is a must for all children with abnormal puberty: That is if the onset of puberty is before 9 years of age or after 14 years of age.

For related pages please browse the right column of the page.

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