Physical changes during puberty differ in boys and girls. However, both males and females attain marked physical growth during puberty. This is when a child transitions to adulthood physically, mentally, and emotionally. These changes may begin at different times in each child. Some may have early puberty, while slightly delayed in a few.
Secondary sexual characteristics develop in puberty. For example, girls may begin to menstruate, while boys have mustaches and beards coming in, and their voices deepen. In this article, we have tried to list the physical changes that occur during puberty. Read on to know more about physical changes in puberty for boys and girls and seek medical care if puberty is delayed.
10 Physical Changes During Puberty
Some major changes occur in adolescent boys and girls. During this period, the body starts to develop and grow into physical maturity. This is the time when your body will start developing all the secondary sexual characteristics. Many teens and families are hesitant to discuss body changes. It is important to speak to your child before these changes to know what to expect and reach out to your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
Physical Changes In Girls During Puberty:
The physical changes for females during puberty experience are marked by the following features of growth (1):
- Puberty in girls is marked by the start of the menstruation cycle, commonly referred to as periods.
- During adolescence, significant physical changes occur, including breast development, which typically reaches full growth by the age of 18 (2).
- Hair growth in the pubic area and the armpits are also observed. The growth of pubic hair may be the first sign of puberty in some girls.
- The adolescent years are also marked by a rapid growth spurt. In girls this growth spurt starts at the age of 11 or usually around the time she reaches menarche and slows down by the age of 16 (3).
Physical Changes In Boys During Puberty:
The physical changes during puberty for males that occur are different in a number of ways. The developments that a boy undergoes during adolescence are (4):
- In boys, the scrotum and the testicles start to grow when they reach puberty.
- The penis also increases in length and reaches the proper adult size and shape by the age of 17 or 18 (5).
- Facial hair, as well as hair growth in the pubis area, armpits, and chest, have been observed. This usually starts around the age of 12; by the time the boy reaches 18 years, the pattern of body hair growth resembles those of adults.
- The growth spurt starts at about 13 years and continues on to about 18 years of age. After that, the growth slows down (3).
- Adolescent boys commonly experience voice changes as a part of their physical transformation. Their vocal cords grow and as a result, the voice pitch changes into a heavier tone.
How To Help An Adolescent To Cope With The Changes?
- It is important to remember that though the physical development in adolescence is rapid, the mental faculties are still in the developmental stage.
- With adolescence comes a whole new range of emotions, a new found sense of responsibility and freedom, and a lot of physical changes. The child is sometimes unable to keep pace with all the changes occurring in its body.
- Most times, adolescents distance themselves from their parents and tend to resort to their peer group for answers. It is at this point that you as the parent need to step forward and be a friend and guide to your child.
- Make sure that your child is well-informed about all the physical changes they have to experience during adolescence.
Lucinda, a mother, shares her own experience with puberty and how she supports her young daughter going through the same. She says, “I went through puberty being bad tempered, obstinate and misunderstood… But now I see my daughter of 13 having mood swings and I want to know more of that. I want to be there for her notwithstanding my limitations and own life challenges.
“We talk more about her life and day to day experiences. Thank God she (her daughter) likes the attention. So my asking her a lot of questions is not ‘awkward.’ She also shares her experiences with her older sisters, sometime they appear to be a better counselors just because they are more aware of the ‘signs of the time.’ One thing I know for sure is that my daughter of 13 can count on 3 people being actively involved with her puberty (i)!”
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How does the onset of puberty differ among girls of different ethnicities?
Girls of different ethnicities may experience differences in the onset of puberty. Studies indicate that African American girls tend to enter puberty earlier and have their first menstrual period earlier than Caucasian and Hispanic girls. It has also been observed that the trend toward earlier puberty timing has been happening faster in African American girls. The exact causes of these racial disparities in pubertal development are not fully understood. Therefore, further research is needed to explore potential genetic and environmental factors (10).
2. What are some common concerns or questions that girls have during puberty?
During puberty, girls experience significant physical and emotional changes, which can raise concerns and questions about different things. Some of them are what to expect from the first period and how to manage menstruation. They can also have queries about breast development and body changes, such as acne and secondary hair growth in the underarm and pubic area. Strategies to navigate social and emotional issues and exploring sexuality are some other domains that girls may seek guidance for.
3. How do hormonal changes during puberty affect girls’ moods and behavior?
Hormonal fluctuations during puberty can lead to heightened emotional sensitivity and variability, which may cause girls to experience mood swings. They may also become more reactive to stress, making them more susceptible to experiencing anxiety or irritability. Hormone-induced physical changes during puberty may make girls more aware of their bodies and influence behaviors related to body images, such as an increased focus on appearance, comparisons with others, and increased sensitivity to criticism (11).
4. Can intense physical activity during puberty delay the onset of menstruation?
Intense physical activity during puberty may delay the onset of menstruation in some girls. The combination of high levels of physical activity, low body fat percentage, and energy imbalance may disrupt hormonal patterns and suppress the reproductive system. However, it’s important to note that individual factors, genetic predisposition, and overall health also affect the timing of menstruation onset. Consulting a healthcare professional can provide a more accurate assessment of an individual’s specific circumstances.
5. How does testosterone affect not only physical changes but also mental and emotional changes in boys?
Puberty causes a surge in testosterone production. Increased testosterone levels with other physical changes and social pressure may cause emotional outbursts and moody behavior in boys. Research shows that increased testosterone production can also influence brain development, affecting mood, behavior, and cognitive functions. It can increase aggression and risk-taking behavior and influence self-confidence, motivation, and sexual drive (12) (13).
The physical changes during puberty in males and females can be overwhelming at times. Significant developments, such as hair growth in private areas, deepening voice in males, menstruation in females, may be confusing and quite a lot to take in. Therefore, this phase is when they need your utmost attention as their parents. Talk them through this phase, or better yet, it may be more beneficial to educate them beforehand and prepare them for changes they may experience as they proceed towards adulthood.
Infographic: Common Physical Changes In Boys And Girls During Puberty
Both boys and girls experience physical changes during puberty other than developing secondary sexual characteristics. Check out the below infographic to know the common physical changes during teenage years to know if there is a delay.
- Boys and girls experience different physical changes during puberty.
- Girls typically start their growth spurt around age 11, while boys start at age 13.
- Puberty brings about secondary sexual traits such as menstrual cycles for girls and deeper voices for boys.
- Boys’ hair growth pattern may resemble that of adults, while girls may develop breasts and wider hips.
- Teenagers may feel overwhelmed by the changes during puberty, so parents should be supportive and understanding.
Explore puberty’s physical and emotional changes in this video, focusing on hormones and their effects on our bodies during this transformative phase.
Personal Experience: Source
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- Physical Development in Boys: What to Expect.
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- Mary Scott Ramnitz and Maya B Lodish; (2013); Racial disparities in pubertal development.
- Social and emotional changes in pre-teens and teenagers.
- Corinna Laube et al.; (2020); Pubertal testosterone correlates with adolescent impatience and dorsal striatal activity.