Puberty is the period when a kid becomes an adult where physical and emotional changes take place. It usually occurs between the ages of 8 and 13 in females, while 9 and 14 in males make a person sexually and reproductively mature.
It has psychological effects, namely increased or often changing emotions, sexual thoughts and desires, romantic attractions to others. The sexual exploration starts to ascertain whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or have another identity.
Physicians termed the sequence of changes in the puberty period as sexual maturity rating (SMR) or Tanner stages, named after a physician who published a detailed version of it in 1969. Tanner stages are figured out by developing the secondary sex characteristics and include changes in the size and appearance of the body parts.
There are hormonal changes that cause growth in parts of the body such as skin, hair, brain, external reproductive organs, breast tissue, muscles and bones. According to Dukehealth, Dr Benjamin says, “We all recognize puberty as a major change, and one that we as parents experienced but when and how your child’s body matures toward adulthood can be different than it was for us.”
Hormones are the chemical substances or molecules produced by the endocrine system (special groups of cells to make hormones such as the pituitary, pineal) for the proper functioning of all organs. In addition, hormones control these changes over time.
Following are those hormonal changes:
- Testosterone: It is the crucial sex hormone in males, giving rise to male traits like a deeper voice, facial hair, and muscle development. It plays a vital role in female development, to a lesser extent in comparison to males.
- Dihydrotestosterone: It is known as DHT, which is stronger than testosterone and is present in vast amounts during the puberty period. It initiates puberty in males and may also help begin puberty in females.
- Growth Hormone: Its levels rise during puberty, leading to growth spurts in the bones and muscles, besides a rapid increase in height. A slower height increase of fewer than 2 inches yearly may indicate hormone insufficiency.
- Estrogen: It is a vital sex hormone in females that fosters uterus and breast tissue growth. It contributes to cognitive health, bone health and the running of the cardiovascular system. It is released by ovaries which results in the enlargement of breasts. The mammary glands also begin developing on reaching puberty level.
- Estradiol: It exists in males and females. In females, the levels of estradiol increase and then stay higher after the puberty period.
The boys develop a deep and hoarse voice as their voice box becomes larger, while the girls’ voice is usually high-pitched. Also, the secretions from the sweat and sebaceous glands rise during this time leading to acne among some teenagers. “Most instances of early puberty don’t present a health risk to children, but it’s worth contacting your paediatrician in case your family doctor feels it’s important to run any tests. It’s rare, but there are cases where early puberty can be a sign of something that needs treatment,” Dr Benjamin added.