Puberty For Boys: Signs, Stages, And Tips To Support Them

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Puberty is when the child undergoes physical and emotional changes as they enter adolescence. This period usually starts between the ages of nine and 14 for boys. Once it begins, it may last for about two to five years (1). However, it does not happen at the same time for everyone.

Puberty begins when the brain produces the hormones that signal the growth of testicles. The testicles will release a hormone, testosterone, the male sex hormone responsible for the appearance of male-like characteristics (2).

Moreover, puberty is a long process and does not happen overnight. The changes and transition from a child to a man can be confusing, overwhelming, exciting, anxious, or embarrassing for boys. Read about the signs, stages, types, and tips on puberty in boys.

Signs Of Puberty In Boys

The signs of puberty become more pronounced as years pass by. Following are the signs of puberty differentiated based on when they appear (3).

Initial signs of puberty

  • Testicles get bigger.
  • Scrotum becomes thinner and redder.
  • Pubic hair appears at the base of the penis.

Later signs of puberty

These signs appear about a year after puberty and continue for the next two years.

  • Growth of penis and testicles
  • Darkening of the scrotum
  • Thickening and curling of pubic hair
  • Growth of hair in the underarms
  • Increased hair growth all over the body
  • Increased sweating in boys
  • Slight swelling of the breasts
  • Experiencing penile erections
  • Experiencing “wet dreams” (ejaculating in sleep) (4)
  • Permanent deepening of the voice. (The voice may go deep and high)
  • Increased acne
  • Experiencing a growth spurt where the boys grow in height by about seven to eight centimeters or around three inches within a year
  • Appear muscular.

About four years of puberty

  • Genitals begin to look like that of an adult.
  • Pubic hair begins to spread even to the inner thighs.
  • Facial hair begins to grow, and the boys should start shaving
  • Rate of height growth gets slower and may stop completely around 16 years of age
  • Continue to get more muscular

Mood changes in puberty

Coping with the changes in the body can make a child self-conscious. Children may develop new emotions and feelings, where puberty is exciting for them. These changes can bring the following psychological and emotional effects:

  • Mood swings with no underlying cause
  • Low self-esteem
  • Aggression
  • Depression

Stages Of Puberty For A Boy

Tanner has proposed a universally accepted scale to describe the onset and progression of puberty. Both boys and girls are rated on a five-point scale. Boys are rated on the basis of genital development and pubic hair growth. This table explains Tanner’s scale of puberty in boys (5).

Tanner stagesPubic hair growthGenital development
Tanner stage I (Preadolescent)No sexual hairSimilar to those seen in childhood
Tanner stage IISparse, pigmented, long, and straight hair (mainly at the base of the penis)Enlargement of the scrotum and testes. Changes in the texture of the scrotal skin and reddening of the scrotal skin.
Tanner stage IIIDarker, coarser, and curlier hairGrowth in the length and the circumference of the penis along with the testes and scrotum.
Tanner stage IVAdult hair but with decreased distributionSignificant enlargement of the penis scrotum and testes, development of glans penis, distinct darkening of the scrotal skin.
Tanner stage VAdult hair with increased quantityAdult genitalia

Each male child reaches different stages of puberty at different periods (6).

Puberty Hitting Too Late Or Too Early

Some boys and girls may hit puberty earlier (precocious puberty) or later (delayed puberty) than others. Both precocious and delayed puberties can run in families.

Precocious puberty (7) (8)

  • Happens early than the expected age range.
  • Sometimes, there are underlying medical reasons, such as an abnormality of the brain, tumors, genetic abnormalities of reproductive organs, or overproduction of sex hormones.
  • It can be divided into two types based on where the abnormality occurs – central precocious puberty or peripheral precocious puberty.
  • Talk to the doctor if your son exhibits an increase in the size of the penis or testicle before nine years of age.

Delayed puberty (7) (8)

  • Most children with delayed puberty eventually go through normal changes of puberty, but a little later than the others.
  • Puberty can get delayed in children who might have nutritional deficiencies due to long-term illnesses.
  • It may also happen due to a medical condition called hypogonadism, where the sex gland may produce lesser or no sex hormones.
  • No testicle development by fourteen years or incomplete development of the testicles and penis for five years after the first signs of development.
  • Talk to the healthcare provider if you suspect your child to have delayed puberty. The doctor may order blood tests, wrist x-rays, genetic studies or CT scans, and MRIs to rule out tumors, brain injuries, etc.

Tips To Help Your Son Through Puberty

The following tips can help you support your son through the changes of puberty (1) (9).

  • The hormones bring several physical changes and emotional changes. The child may behave moodily or differently. Reassure your child that the changes are normal.
  • Refrain from making comments or jokes about their changed voice, appearance, or other changes.
  • Offer them solutions if they are facing acne or body odor. Buy them deodorants, acne control products or provide them with solutions such as bathing more often to ward off the foul odor.
  • Talk to them about how normal is it to have uneven testes.
  • Explain that the size of the penis does not affect sexual functioning.
  • Ensure that they know that ejaculating during sleep or spontaneous erections are normal and settle down in some time.
  • The child may be concerned about growing breasts or tenderness. Reassure them that it is temporary and will settle as their chest widens.
  • Tell them that each child has their pace of growth.
  • Give them enough time and space to come to terms with all changes.
  • Talk to them about their questions, confusions and ensure that they can comfortably reach you to find answers to their doubts.
  • Buy them books about puberty to get real information in clear words.

Create an environment where your son would feel comfortable to approach you with their doubts instead of believing false information from their friends or other sources. If you feel your child has some barriers and is unable to open up, you may ask them if they would prefer talking about it to a therapist or a school counselor.


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Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate the latest advancements in the field of dentistry into her practice. Dr. Shah's deep interest in the well-being of babies and children... more