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Physical Changes During Puberty
Secondary sex changes
For any child experiencing puberty, the most impressive evidence of the profound hormonal changes that are occurring center around the reproductive organs. This evolution commonly requires approximately five years from onset to completion. A series of predictable physical changes was noted and studied by several groups. In 1970, Dr. W.A. Marshall and Dr. J.M. Tanner published a landmark paper standardizing this sequence, and the series of changes have subsequently been known as the Tanner stages. These sequential stages of sexual maturity are listed below.
Tanner stages have been developed as a way to classify the time, course, and progress of changes that occur during puberty. They are based upon attainment of the so-called secondary sex characteristics, which include genital development in males, breast development in females, and pubic hair development in both genders.
The onset of puberty in males should take place between 9-14 years of age; females should experience the initial pubertal changes between 8-13 years of age. Precocious puberty is defined as the onset of the complete changes of puberty prior to these ages. Delayed onset of puberty implies lack of pubertal onset by the above timetable. There are several medical conditions (both physiologically normal and abnormal) that may give rise to problems with only adrenarche, pubarche, or thelarche.
Listed below is a table relating the physical changes and their age of onset as described by Marshall and Tanner. There exists a standard deviation of approximately one year. It is important to note that while some adolescents have a methodical step-by-step march through this period of their life, others seem to follow a much more erratic timetable of maturation.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/22/2016
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