Puberty

Puberty

Puberty affects children between the ages of 11 and 14. The changes can be drastic and all at once, changing your physical growth, cognitive development, emotional and social skills, as well as sensory and motor development. Rapid changes often occur earlier in girl than in boys but both genders will go through physical and emotional changes that segue childhood into adulthood. If often is a difficult time of transition for the adolescent as well as the parents, but strong family support will reaffirm your childs sense of self.

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    Adolescence is more than a period in your life when you have incredibly strange conversations with your nervous parents. It's also the period when both your body and your brain change, making you stronger, taller, hairier and able to reproduce, in addition to more perceptive and philosophical. This period of change between childhood and adulthood is called puberty, and it is the process of growth and sexual maturation that, for males, happens generally between the ages of 9 and 18.

    It is no small feat. The capacity of the body to suddenly "come alive" and at the same time advance on many different fronts is nothing short of remarkable. Bones that have already been growing at an amazing rate reveal that they have just been getting ready for the real show. Glands that have been mostly dormant now produce hormones that tell different parts of the body to act. The mind that was once preoccupied with such things as how to catch a bullfrog or build a better kite now finds it can probe life for meaning, look for romantic relationships, and to plot and plan a course in life.

    Of course, change has a price for young men: bones hurt, faces erupt in acne, fear and anxiety arrive with the onset of sexuality and expectations. Voices change, depression may occur and there often seem to be more questions than answers. Many boys start puberty early, while others don't experience it until they are older, and it progresses at different rates for everyone. This difference may cause embarrassment, anxiety and bullying, and maybe all three at once if you have an erection while being stuffed into a locker by a stronger boy.

    While puberty begins and ends at different times for different individuals, usually beginning around the age of 10, though it may start as early as age 9 or as late as age 12, puberty always begins with the onset of a substance called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in the male's body. The release of GnRH is controlled by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, the same section of the brain that controls your temperature and your sleep cycle, in addition to your senses of hunger and thirst.

    Puberty has many stages occurring at varying rates and affecting each boy differently. Growing up from a boy to a man is not an easy task.

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    Puberty is the time in which girls and boys begin the biological and physiological process of becoming sexually mature. Puberty usually occurs in young girls between the ages of 10 and14 and in young boys between the ages of 12 and 16. For girls, this period is marked by the beginning of menstruation, breast growth, and pubic hair. Boys experience testicle and penis growth and development of pubic and facial hair.

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    Puberty begins when luteinizing hormone (LH) is produced in the pituitary gland and released in pulses, especially at night. This takes place approximately three years prior to the physical development of secondary sex characteristics, such as hair, breast, and penis growth. LH interacts with other hormones such as testosterone and estrogen to cause the development of these secondary sex characteristics.

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    Young boys and girls experience the development of secondary sex characteristics differently.

    Most girls experience breast development followed by pubic and arm hair growth. Growth spurts, increase in hip size, and vaginal secretions are also common. The first menstrual period takes place approximately two years into puberty.

    Young boys first experience enlargement of the testicles followed by growth spurts, penis growth, increased hair growth, voice changes, and wet dreams.

    In addition to physical changes, adolescents also experience cognitive, social, and emotional development.

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    During puberty, the body undergoes numerous changes as adolescents develop secondary sex characteristics and eventually achieve fertility.

    For young girls, menstruation is one of the milestones of puberty, marking the beginning of fertility. Girls often grow taller and slimmer, and develop rounder hips during this period. Their breasts develop, and hair begins to grow in the pubic area, on the legs, and under arms. Puberty begins for girl before boys, often causing them to appear older than their male counterparts during this timeframe.

    Young boys experience testicle and penis growth accompanied by nighttime ejaculations called "wet dreams." They too have an increase in hair growth and height. Their voices deepen and, usually at the end stages of puberty, boys begin to develop facial hair.

    Both sexes experience increased hormone production that causes sweaty armpits, acne, and body odor.

     

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    While puberty is a completely natural developmental stage, some individuals experience early onset of puberty, also known as precocious puberty. This can be caused in females by problems with the central nervous system or problems with the adrenal glands. Precocious puberty can be caused in males by tumors in the testicles or adrenal glands, organic brain disease, or brain tumors. Other individuals may experience delayed puberty, which can be caused by ovarian problems and chromosomal disorders. Additionally, the onset of fertility can put sexually active adolescents at risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

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    Disordered pubertal development includes precocious puberty, or early onset puberty, and delayed puberty.

    Girls who begin puberty prior to eight years old and boys who begin puberty prior to nine years old exhibit true precocious puberty. To diagnose, doctors determine the maturity of the bones by taking an x-ray of the individual's hand. Blood hormone tests, ultrasound, CT scans, or an MRI may be necessary if the individual exhibits advanced bone age.

    Delayed puberty is diagnosed when girls exhibit no pubertal development by age thirteen or age fourteen in boys. Doctors will evaluate using the individual's medical record looking for signs of chronic disease or hormone level deficiencies. A CT scan, MRI, or chromosomal analysis may be performed. Doctors may often choose to monitor the situation with regular check-ups every six months.

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    Puberty is a common and important stage of development for adolescents. Consult your doctor if you or your child has any questions about the process. If your child begins puberty prior to age nine for boys or age eight for girls, or if your child does not yet exhibit physical changes related to puberty by age 16 for boys and 14 for girls, you should consult your doctor. Also, contact your doctor if your child develops any other uncommon symptoms.

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    Puberty is a time of change and development and can be awkward and embarrassing for adolescents. Take time to explain the physical changes to your child. Males will experience penis growth, increased hair growth and nighttime ejaculations. They may need to begin using razors to shave. Girls will encounter breast development, hair growth, and menstruation.

    Increased hormone levels may cause acne and body odor. Instruct your child on the uses of deodorant and personal hygiene. Young girls may need to begin wearing bras and using feminine products during their menstrual period. Most schools provide sexual education programs, but parents should also monitor and talk with their children about puberty.

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    Doctors may prescribe synthetic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (such as leuprolide, acetate, deslorelin, or histrelin) to slow early onset puberty. These medications stop the production of certain sex hormones. Supplemental sex hormones, such as testosterone may be used to initiate the process.