Puberty

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What other changes in the body occur during puberty in boys and girls?

The "growth spurt"

A rapid increase in height, referred to as a growth spurt, usually accompanies puberty. This rapid increase in height typically lasts for two to three years. About 17%-18% of adult height is attained during puberty. Although the increase in height affects both the trunk and the limbs, growth in the limbs usually happens first. The growth spurt characteristically occurs earlier in girls than in boys, with girls having the growth spurt approximately two years prior to boys, on average. In girls, the growth spurt typically precedes the onset of menstruation by about six months.

Bone growth and mineralization

Puberty is accompanied by growth of bones and increases in bone density in both boys and girls. In girls, bone mineralization peaks around the time of the onset of menstrual periods, after the time of peak height velocity (growth spurt). Studies have shown that bone width increases first, followed by bone mineral content, and lastly by bone density. Because of the lag between bone growth and achievement of full bone density, adolescents may be at increased risk for fractures during this time.

Weight changes

Changes in weight and body composition occur in both boys and girls. Adolescent girls develop a greater proportion of body fat than boys, with redistribution of the fat toward the upper and lower portions of the body, leading to a curvier appearance. While boys also have an increase in the growth of body fat, their muscle growth is faster. By the end of puberty, boys have a muscle mass about one and a half times greater than that of comparably sized girls.

Other changes

Maturation of the cardiovascular systems and lungs results in an increased working capacity of these organs, associated with an overall increase in endurance and strength. These changes are more pronounced in boys than in girls.

What emotional changes occur in puberty in boys and girls?

Both boys and girls can experience emotional changes that accompany the myriad physical changes of puberty. These changes are not the same for all adolescents. Changes can occur in the way a teen responds to family or friends and views him- or herself. Many adolescents experience mood swings, anxiety, confusion, and sensitivity. On the other hand, not all emotional changes of puberty are related to negative thoughts or feeling upset. Puberty is also a time in which the young person learns about his or her own interests and goals and learns to relate to others in a more mature way. While some emotional changes are a normal part of puberty, it is important to seek medical help if these emotional changes are unusually severe, affect day-to-day functioning, or result in thoughts of harming oneself or others.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/1/2016
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