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Puberty Facts

  • Adolescence is characterized by profound changes in several areas. The maturation of intellectual thought, substantial psychosocial development, and a series of physical changes that reflect neurological and endocrinological processes are intertwined in the process summarized as puberty.
  • The cognitive changes that become obvious during puberty continue on into young adulthood. Observations by specialists point out that the acquisition of operational thought (ability to think abstractly) is able to be correlated to physical changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain -- that region in the front of the brain responsible for judgment, impulse control, delayed gratification, and interpretation of subtle visual facial signals necessary for mature social interaction.
  • The most obvious physical changes during puberty reflect the influence of powerful hormones. The attainment of adult secondary sexual characteristics (breast maturation, testicular and penile maturation, and pubertal hair), body composition changes, and attainment of fertility are all easily noticed.
  • Less obvious but equally important are changes in cardiovascular function, muscle bulk and strength, and bone density.
  • This article is designed to provide an overview of the events of puberty, both biological and psychological.
  • In addition, common issues and problems that occur during this period of life will be briefly reviewed. Abnormalities of pubertal development, including premature puberty and delay of the onset of puberty, are reviewed in other articles.

Definitions of Puberty Terminology

Characteristic physical changes occur during puberty. These include

  1. Adrenarche: activation of the adrenal glands whose hormonal stimulation is partially responsible for onset of body odor, increase in sweat rate, increase in skin oil production, acne and (to some degree) facial hair growth in both genders
  2. Pubarche: the appearance of pubic hair
  3. Thelarche: the appearance of breast tissue
  4. Menarche: the first menstrual bleeding
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/22/2016

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Puberty:

Puberty - Patient Experience

Did you or your child experience pitfalls during puberty? Please describe your experience.

Puberty in Girls Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ

Everyone develops at her own rate. A doctor should be consulted for girls who have not gotten their periods by age 15 or within a few years of breast growth. It is important to note that some girls don't get their periods until they're 16. Often the best predictor of when a girl will get her first period is when her mother got her first period.

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