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What is Adolescence?

Adolescence is the human body’s natural progression and transition from childhood to sexual maturity. Adolescence is also called puberty. Adolescence is generally marked by significant growth in both boys and girls. Children will grow in height, as well as weight. Many people call adolescence a “growth spurt.”

Girls can enter puberty as early as eight years of age, and boys can enter as early as nine years of age. However, puberty can also start as late as 13 for both sexes. A child who enters puberty at eight or nine, or who has not entered puberty by the middle of their 13th year, should be seen by his or her doctor.


During puberty, girls can grow an average of three inches per year for up to two years. Once a girl starts her menstrual cycle, she will only grow an average of one or two inches each year. Most girls reach their adult height by their 15th year. Girls will gain approximately 20 pounds during puberty.

Boys will grow an average of four inches each year during puberty. They will continue to grow taller, and generally reach their adult height during their 19th year. Boys will gain an average of 30 pounds.

Adolescent Girls

Girls should be fully educated about their body, reproductive system, and be prepared for their menstrual cycle. It is important that girls are given the proper terms for their genital area, and that they are not made to feel ashamed about the changes their bodies are going through. The first outward sign a girl is in puberty is that her nipples will enlarge and sparse pubic hair will appear. This will soon be followed by a gradual growth in the breasts, more pubic hair, underarm hair, oily skin, and menstruation.

Adolescent Boys

Boys should be fully educated about their body and their reproductive system, as well. When talking to a boy, try to use the correct terms for their body parts, and reproductive organs. One of the first signs of a boy is in puberty is that his testicles will become larger. He may also notice that he has body odor coming from his armpits. As he enters advance stages of puberty, sparse pubic hair will begin to grow, and ejaculation may start occurring during sleep. Voice changes may occur and boys may sound pitchy or scratchy. Next, a boy may notice that his penis is becoming longer or thicker. Hair will start growing thicker in the groin area. Hair will begin to grow in the armpits, and on the chin and upper lip. Lastly, chest hair will grow.

Children of both sexes will undergo many hormonal changes during puberty. Dialogue should be open, honest and casual. Children need to feel they have someone to talk with if they have questions or concerns.

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