Medical Encyclopedia: Puberty
Puberty is the period of human development during which physical growth and sexual maturation occurs.
Beginning as early as age eight in girls—and two years later, on average, in boys—the hypothalamus (part of the brain) signals hormonal change that stimulates the pituitary. In turn, the pituitary releases its own hormones called gonadotrophins that stimulate the gonads and adrenals. From these glands come a flood of sex hormones—androgens and testosterone in the male, estrogens and progestins in the female—that regulate the growth and function of the sex organs. It is interesting to note that the gonadotrophins are the same for males and females, but the sex hormones they induce are different.
In the United States, the first sign of puberty occurs on average at age 11 in girls, with menstruation and fertility following about two years later. Boys lag behind by about two years. Puberty may not begin until age 16 in boys and continue in a desultory fashion on past age 20. In contrast to puberty, adolescence is more of a social/cultural term referring to the interval between childhood and adulthood.
The stage of adolescence in which an individual becomes physiologically capable of sexual reproduction.
World of the Body: puberty
Puberty marks the point in human development where both males and females gain the capability to procreate. Puberty occurs during adolescence, which begins as early as age 10 and is usually completed by age 17. For girls, a rising level of oestrogen (female hormone) sets the process in motion. Pelvis and breast development are followed by a spurt in height and then the growth of underarm and pubic hair. Finally, menarche, the beginning of the first menstrual cycle, occurs. Ovulation does not automatically coincide with menarche. It may take as many as forty cycles for ovulation to become a regular part of the menstrual cycle. Though they are uniform in order, the age of onset, pace, and duration of these changes vary widely from one individual to another. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the average age of first menstruation has declined. In the US, it decreased from about 14 years old in 1900 to 12 years old in 1975. Scientists attribute this change to better living standards, particularly in regard to diet. In males a sharp increase in androgen (male hormone) and growth hormone spawns skeletal development, followed by the lowering of the voice, the growth of facial hair, increase in sex organ size, height, spermatogenesis, and muscle development. The outward physical signs of puberty tend to occur earlier in girls than in boys, particularly the growth spurt.
Food and Fitness: puberty
The period between the first appearance of pubic hair and (in females) the first menstrual flow, or (in males) the first development of active sperm. The age of puberty varies: in females it is usually between 9 and 15 years, and in males between 11 and 14 years. During puberty, young people undergo quite dramatic physical and psychological changes. Regular, well-structured exercise and sport can help them to cope with these changes by providing emotional and physical release. Involvement in sport can also encourage personal responsibility for health and an interest in sound nutrition. In addition to its cardiovascular benefits, regular aerobic exercise may also help to ease menstrual pain in girls. Despite all these advantages, some types of exercise are dangerous during puberty because bones are still growing and the cartilaginous growth zones (epiphyseal discs) are easily damaged. Consequently, hard anaerobic exercise and training with heavy weights should not take place until two years after the final growth spurt, which may be any time between 10 and 18 years. Excessive aerobic activity, such as long-distance running, can also place intolerable stresses on joints and soft tissues causing permanent damage.
Thesaurus: puberty noun
The time of life between childhood and maturity: adolescence, greenness, juvenescence, juvenility, salad days, spring, youth, youthfulness. See youth/age/maturity.
Definition: young adulthood
Dental Dictionary: puberty
The age at which the reproductive system becomes functional, with concurrent development of secondary sex characteristics. Marked by increased estrogenic activity in the female and rise of androgenic activity in the male.
Children’s Health Encyclopedia: Puberty
Puberty is the period of human development during which physical growth and sexual maturity occurs.
The word puberty is derived from the Latin pubertas, which means adulthood. Puberty is initiated by hormonal changes triggered by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which stimulates the pituitary gland, which in turn activates other glands as well. These changes begin about a year before any of their results are visible. Both the male reproductive hormone testosterone and female hormone estrogen are present in children of both sexes. However, their balance changes at puberty, with girls producing relatively more estrogen and boys producing more testosterone.
Beginning as early as age eight in girls—and two years later, on average, in boys—the hypothalamus signals hormonal change that stimulates the pituitary. In turn, the pituitary releases its own hormones called gonadotrophins that stimulate the gonads and adrenals. From these glands come a flood of sex hormones—androgen and testosterone in the male, estrogen and progestin in the female—that regulate the growth and function of the sex organs. It is interesting to note that the gonadotrophins are the same for males and females, but the sex hormones they induce are different.
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: puberty
In human physiology, the period of first becoming capable of reproducing sexually. Occurring at about age 12 in girls and age 14 in boys, puberty is characterized by the maturing of the genital organs, development of secondary sex characteristics, and, in girls, onset of menstruation. Both sexes experience a swift increase in body size and changes in body shape and composition. Puberty marks the beginning of adolescence.
Sports Science and Medicine: puberty
A period in the life course between the appearance of pubic hair and, in females, the first menarche, or, in males, the first development of sperm. Puberty varies, but in females it usually occurs between 9 and 15 years, while in males it usually occurs between 11 and 14 years.
Columbia Encyclopedia: puberty
(pyū’bərtē) , period during which the onset of sexual maturity occurs. It usually takes place between the ages of 10 and 15 in both sexes but sometimes occurs as early as 7 or 8 years of age in females. The pituitary gland secretes hormones that stimulate enlargement and development of the sex organs, which thus become capable of reproduction. The appearance of secondary sex characteristics also occurs during puberty. In females the reproductive cycle of ovulation and menstruation begins, pubic hair appears, and development of the breasts and other body contours takes place. Physical changes in males include production and discharge of semen, appearance of facial and body hair, and deepening of the voice. Skin difficulties, such as acne, may affect both sexes. Puberty, a transition period coinciding with adolescence, involves both physiological and psychological adjustments. It is often marked by emotional stress arising as the adolescent relinquishes childhood behavior patterns and adopts those of an adult.
Puberty was originally defined anatomically and physiologically as the appearance of secondary signs of sexual maturation that mark the beginning of the adolescent process which will put an end to the period of childhood that had been prolonged by the period of latency. The concepts of puberty and adolescence have been increasingly considered as belonging to the field of psychoanalysis only progressively.
Veterinary Dictionary: pubertal
Pertaining to or emanating from puberty.
* p. period — the period approaching puberty when gonadal function, accessory sex gland function and behavior develop to the point where reproduction is possible.
Puberty refers to the process of physical changes by which a child’s body becomes an adult body capable of reproduction. Puberty is initiated by hormone signals from the brain to the gonads (the ovaries and testes). In response, the gonads produce a variety of hormones that stimulate the growth, function, or transformation of brain, bones, muscle, skin, breasts, and reproductive organs. Growth accelerates in the first half of puberty and reaches completion by the end. Before puberty, body differences between boys and girls are almost entirely restricted to the genitalia. During puberty major differences of size, shape, composition, and function develop in many body structures and systems. The most obvious of these are referred to as secondary sex characteristics.
In a strict sense, the term puberty (and this article) refers to the bodily changes of sexual maturation rather than the psychosocial and cultural aspects of adolescent development. Adolescence is the period of psychological and social transition between childhood and adulthood. Adolescence largely overlaps the period of puberty but its boundaries are less precisely defined and it refers as much to the psychosocial and cultural characteristics of development during the teen years as to the physical changes of puberty