Growth HormOne Research SocietyLecture by Dr. (Prof.) I. P. S. Kochar
Paediatric & Adolescent Endocrinologist & Diabetologist



Puberty is the time of a person's life when his/her body changes from child to adult, accompanied by the process of sexual maturation. Puberty is caused by changes in hormones and includes both physical and emotional growth. In addition, with the onset of puberty, the secondary sexual characteristics begin to develop, such as pubic hair, breasts in girls, and a deepening of the voice in boys. On average, puberty begins in girls between the ages of 8 and 13 and in boys between the ages of 9 and 14.

Sometimes, puberty may occur earlier or later than usual. In addition, certain tumors that grow on the reproductive organs, such as the ovaries, can stimulate the early secretion of estrogen (female sex hormone) or androgen (male sex hormone), causing early outward appearances of puberty.

Problems with puberty require the clinical care of a physician or other healthcare professional. Listed in the directory below are some problems associated with puberty, for which we have provided a brief overview.


What is precocious puberty (early puberty)?

Abnormally early puberty is called precocious puberty and is characterized by the early development of sexual characteristics in girls before the age of 8 and in boys before the age of 9. Most children with the disorder grow fast at first, but also finish growing before reaching their full genetic height potential. Left untreated, most boys will not grow taller than 5 feet 2 inches, and girls often do not grow taller than 5 feet.

What causes precocious puberty?

Early puberty and sexual development may be caused by tumors or growths of the ovaries, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, or brain. Other causes may include central nervous system abnormalities, family history of the disease, or certain rare genetic syndromes. In many cases, no cause can be found for the disorder. Two types of precocious puberty include the following:

What are gonadotropins?

Gonadotropins are hormones released by the pituitary gland that are responsible for stimulating the gonads (ovaries and testes) to produce sex hormones. The sex hormones, in turn, cause sexual development and maturation.

gonadotropin-dependent precocious puberty

Also known as central precocious puberty, this form of precocious puberty is the most common, affecting most girls with the disorder and half of boys with the disorder. The puberty is triggered by the premature secretion of gonadotropins (hormones responsible for puberty). Researchers believe that the premature maturation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovaries axis causes this disorder in girls. However, in the majority of cases, no cause for the early secretion of gonadotropin hormones can be found.

gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty

This is a form of precocious puberty that is not triggered by the early release of gonadotropin hormones.

What are the symptoms of precocious puberty?

The following are the most common symptoms of precocious puberty. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. As in normal puberty, symptoms of precocious puberty include the onset of secondary sexual characteristics, including:

Girls :
1. Breasts
2. Pubic and underarm hair
3. Menstruation
4. Ovulation
Boys :
1. Enlarging penis and testicles
2. Pubic and underarm hair
3. Facial hair
4. Spontaneous erections
5. Production of sperm
6. Development of acne
7. Deepening of the voice

Other characteristics of the disorder include the following :

  • typical moodiness associated with the hormonal changes
  • increased aggression
  • taller than peers, at first

What is the emotional effect of precocious puberty on a child?

Early puberty will cause a child's body to change much sooner than his/her peers. This sense of being different, coupled with the hormonal change-induced emotional mood swings, may make a child feel self-conscious. Your child may feel uncomfortable about his/her sexual changes, as well. Helping your child cope with teasing from his/her peers, treating your child appropriately for his/her age, and boosting your child's self-esteem are important steps to help your child adjust more appropriately.

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