Puberty In Boys: Its Stages And Bodily Changes

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There will be a time in the pre-teen years when your boy will start to grow to be a man. This period can be complicated as young boys are likely to feel overwhelmed, confused, anxious and sometimes embarrassed at the rapid changes.

While adoloscents may not always rush to their parents for advice, do not stay aloof. Participate in a caring way for your dear one and keep yourself informed.

MomJunction tells you about puberty in boys, its phases and the various ways you can support your son during this time.

What is Puberty?

Puberty is a natural process in which the body reaches sexual maturity. The hypothalamus (a small part in the brain) secretes a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (also known as GnRH) (1).

This hormone prompts the pituitary gland to discharge two hormones: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) (2).

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These hormones send an indication to the sex organs (testes) to release sex hormones in the body. For boys, the hormone testosterone is released, and the testes begin to produce sperms.

This hormone is responsible for all the significant physical changes a boy sees in his body during puberty.

[Read: When Do You Hit Puberty]

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When Do Boys Hit Puberty?

Most boys hit their puberty between 9 and 14 years of age. However, it may vary with the body types, the diet they take, their geography, etc.

Some may reach puberty earlier than normal (precocious puberty), and some later (delayed puberty).

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What Is Precocious And Delayed Puberty?

Precocious and delayed puberties can happen due to physical conditions (3). Let’s see them in detail:

1. Precocious or early puberty

Early puberty occurs due to the abnormalities in the brain or in the reproductive system. It is classified into two categories depending on where the abnormality is.

  • Central precocious puberty: If the abnormality is in the brain, it is called central precocious puberty. The common causes include radiation to the brain, a previous brain infection, and sometimes brain tumors. In such cases, the brain triggers the pituitary gland to commence puberty much earlier than normal.
  • Peripheral precocious puberty: An abnormality in the organs like testicles or adrenal glands leads to precocious puberty. The abnormality could arise due to tumors, hypothyroidism, adrenal gland diseases, or genetic defects that cause an overproduction of sex hormones.
  • There is another scenario called idiopathic precocious puberty, where no underlying cause can be found for early puberty. Most of the early puberty cases belong to this category.

[Read: Ways To Hit Puberty Faster]

2. Delayed puberty

Puberty could be delayed in a boy due to slow growth also called “constitutional delay of puberty”. Poor nutrition also delays puberty.

Sometimes, the delay may be the result of hypogonadism, a condition where the testes produce less or no hormones:

  • Secondary hypogonadism is caused when the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland fail to send signals to the reproductive systems.
  • Primary hypogonadism occurs when the testes fail to produce the hormones.
  • The puberty may be early or delayed but once it sets, the changes are similar.

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What Bodily Changes Occur During Puberty?

During puberty, a boy’s testicles start producing the male hormone testosterone, which brings about changes in his body. Here are some of the most common signs of puberty in boys (4):

  1. Grows taller and muscular. The shoulders broaden, and the muscles have more definition.
  1. His voice breaks. The boy gets the larynx or Adam’s apple, and the voice deepens and begins to croak. He feels like his voice is breaking.
  1. Sweats more than before. The active adrenal glands result in more sweating, leading to body odor in some cases. The sweating usually happens in the armpits and groin.
  1. Oily skin and acne breakout. The active adrenal glands also make the skin secrete more oil, resulting in acne breakouts.
  1. Facial and pubic hair grows. Your boy will begin looking like a man now with hair growing on the face. It also begins growing in the armpits and private parts.
  1. Wet dreams or nocturnal emissions are common. They are the ejaculations while the boy is asleep. Wet dreams are a way to send out the accumulated semen.
  1. Frequent erections and the urge to masturbate. Boys experience sexual desires due to the sudden increase in testosterone. This can cause spontaneous erections. The young adult might want to masturbate to satiate his urges.
  1. The private parts grow. The male private parts, namely the penis, scrotum, and testes, enlarge during puberty.
  1. He might have gynecomastia. In this condition, the breasts grow a little due to a surge in the hormones. However, it is temporary and goes away soon.
  1. You will have to deal with his mood swings. Puberty changes are not just physical but emotional as well. Your boy will have several questions and some fears about the changes they are going through. These significant and rapid changes often result in mood swings.

The changes during puberty are evident. However, they do not happen overnight, but in various stages.

[Read: Emotional Changes During Puberty]

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What Are The Stages Of Puberty In Boys?

Puberty is measured through Tanner stages or Tanner scale, named after James Tanner, who has identified the pattern of growth.

Tanner scale is a way to measure the physical development of children into adolescents and then adults. Below, we tell you what happens in each stage (5) (6) (7).

Tanner stage I (< 9 years)

  • No noticeable physical change
  • The brain signals the body to prepare for change
  • The hypothalamus starts to release GnRH hormone
  • Two more puberty hormones, LH and FSH, are produced
  • The testicular volume is less than 4ml

Tanner stage II (9-11 years)

  • The testes start to enlarge
  • Pigmentation of the scrotum
  • Downy hair starts to grow after the testicular growth
  • The testicular volume is 4-8ml

Tanner stage III (11-12.5 years)

  • The penis and testicles continue to enlarge
  • Some breast tissues may start to develop under the nipples resulting in slight enlargement of breasts
  • Pubic hair grows and becomes coarse and curly
  • Voice begins to change and may crack often
  • Height starts increasing by 2 to 3.5in every year
  • The testicular volume is 9-12ml

Tanner stage IV (12.5-14 years)

  • Spermarche, or the development of the sperm, takes places
  • The testes, scrotum, and penis continue to enlarge
  • The scrotum may look darker than before
  • Pubic hair fills the entire triangle overlying the pubic region
  • Hair begins to grow in the armpits and on the face
  • The deeper voice becomes permanent at this stage
  • Pimples may start to appear
  • The testicular volume is 15-20ml

Tanner stage V (> 14 years)

  • The testes, scrotum, and penis have reached adult size
  • The pubic hair has grown to a full extent
  • Facial hair will start to grow; some boys may need to shave by now
  • Growth in terms of height will slow down
  • The muscles will still be developing
  • By 18 years, most boys will have reached their full growth
  • The testicular volume is more than 20ml

The changes are overwhelming. Though your son might feel shy to share the developments with you, you need to support him through these years of development.

[Read: Physical Changes During Puberty]

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How Can You Help Your Son Through Puberty?

In addition to physical changes, this can be an emotionally challenging time for your child. This may result in behavioral changes. Therefore, it is important to provide emotional support and reassurance as a parent. You need to reassure your child and be there for him.

  • Talk to your son about the changes that he will go through during this phase.
  • Your child will need privacy at this age; so give him the required space.
  • Refrain from taunting and joking about the changes in his body and voice, as it may be already happening in school and peer groups.
  • When he feels aroused or ejaculates in sleep, tell him he need not be ashamed of it, and you understand that it is all biological.
  • If your son is concerned that he looks too thin or small compared to his peers, give him confidence that he too will grow, and not everybody will have the same measurements.
  • At this stage, your little boy is striving to become an individual. They may have frequent mood swings. Put yourself in his shoes and try to understand the reasons for his behavior.
  • Do not react if your teen is taking extra care to look good and spending time on personal care.
  • Comfort your son that it is normal for testes to grow and one growing bigger than the other.If you see anything seriously bothering your child or if you are concerned about your young one’s development, consult a general physician.

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The last thing you want to do as a parent is to ridicule your child’s experiences. Look at this as an opportunity to strengthen your bond with your child. It is important to have an open communication with your child and explain to him what these changes mean. Do not press your kid on this topic; instead, take it slow so that your son can turn to you whenever he wants.

[Read: Social Changes During Puberty]

Do you have any story to share? Let’s know about it in the comment section below.

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