Puberty -- the period in a person's live during which the body undergoes the transformation from child to adult -- can be an exciting, but also scary time for a child. It's a time of huge change -- both physically and emotionally. Read on to learn what to expect in girls and boys and how to help your child cope if puberty starts early.
At puberty, a girl's body goes through many changes, including the newly developed ability to bear children. Some of the physical differences girls notice include:
Among the changes boys will notice:
Traditionally, pediatric guidelines indicated that most girls entered puberty between ages 8 and 13 and boys between ages 9 and 14. However, there appears to be a trend toward girls entering puberty at a younger age. Recent studies show that puberty may be starting about a year earlier than previous guidelines indicated, and that black girls mature close to a year earlier than white girls, says Paul Kaplowitz, M.D., chief of endocrinology at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC and author of the forthcoming book Early Puberty in Girls: The Essential Guide to Coping with This Common Problem (Ballantine Books, February 2004).
Early puberty seems to be much more common in girls than in boys, adds Dr. Kaplowitz, but rest assured: "Signs of puberty in girls between the ages of 7 and 8 are fairly common and don't usually indicate a serious problem," he says. When should parents be concerned? "If your daughter is clearly going through puberty rapidly before age 8, she should be seen by a pediatrician or family physician who can decide is it is necessary to see a specialist," he suggests. Also, keep in mind that the appearance of pubic hair, isn't the same thing as actually having puberty because the hormones which cause the growth of pubic hair come from the adrenal glands, while the hormones which promote breast growth come from the ovaries, explains Dr. Kaplowitz.
If it turns out that your child is an early bloomer, there are a few things you can do to help ease him or her through what can be an unsettling time.
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.