The timing and common problems of puberty
Late primary school students and early secondary school students are having their puberty. One can notice that their heights vary a lot. Some are very tall and some are very short. Girls are usually taller than boys in primary school and boys would usually catch up and be taller than girls by mid secondary school years. The reason behind is the difference of onset on puberty in boys and girls.
Puberty, in medical term, is a period when sexual maturity is completed, resulting in the capacity for reproduction. It happens in everybody, boys and girls though no two people are exactly alike.
Usually, puberty starts between 8 years to 13 years old in girls, 9 to 14 years old in boys. When the body is ready to begin puberty, a pea-shaped gland located at the bottom of brain called pituitary gland releases special hormones. These hormones would then stimulate testes in boys or ovaries in girls to produce male hormones and female hormones respectively.
With male hormones on board, the first sign boys have would be increase in size of two testes and penis. On average, this occurs at around 11-12 years old. Then curly hair grows out over private part and under the arms. At the same time boys start to grow very fast followed by deepening of voice and at the end mustache comes out.
Girls would start to find breast enlargement first. At the same time, they start to have growth spurt. It usually happens at around 10 years old which is 1-2 years earlier than and it explains well why girls are taller than boys in primary school. Two to three years after the breast enlargement, they would have period. And the growth would then slow down dramatically. While most people can go through puberty normally, some might have problems with their puberty. Puberty may happen too early (precocious puberty) or too late (delayed puberty).
If a girl has breast development before 7-8 years old, or a boy has testis enlargement before 9 years old, it is called precocious puberty. They would have early growth spurt and stop growing early. Usually they are shorter than their genetic potential. For girls, their menstrual period come earlier as well. It runs in family. If parents have early puberty, their kids would have higher chance of having early puberty as well. Apart from genetic factors, history of meningitis, history of cranial radiotherapy or even brain tumor also increases the chance of precocious puberty. Most girls with precocious puberty are just having early puberty but nothing else. But boys with precocious puberty carry a higher chance of having underlying cause. Investigations such as bone age or other imaging and blood for hormonal level can be done to confirm the diagnosis, rule out underlying cause and predict final height. In extreme cases, there is medication to delay the puberty and restore final height.
On the other hand, some kids have delayed puberty. This is referring to having no signs of any sexual development (including breast, testes, pubic hair) by age of 13 in girls or 14 in boys. Again, genetic factor plays an important role. In most of the cases, we can found that there is at least one parent having delayed puberty as well. These kids usually present as short stature because their peer are having growth spurt while they are not. Most of them will get to their genetic potential for final height, but just slightly later. A small proportion of them might have problems in pituitary gland, testes or ovaries. Proper medical intervene is then needed for them to help them go through normal pubertal process.
As we all know, boys and girls may become fussy during pubertal period. It is due to both physical and psychological reasons. Parental understanding and support is very important and crucial to help them go through these few years.