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What is Puberty? - Stages, Changes & Growth

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that there are five stages of puberty? Learn more about puberty, its stages, and the changes that occur during puberty. After you've finished the lesson, you can use our online quiz to test your own knowledge of this important stage of life.

Defining Puberty

Jill is a 12-year-old girl. Jill is concerned because her body has been going through some unexpected changes. Her breasts are beginning to grow. Jill also notices that she has body odor and starts wearing deodorant. Jill talks to her mother about her concerns. Jill's mother reassures her daughter that these changes are nothing to be concerned about; she is just going through puberty.

Puberty is a period in human development during which the body changes as people transition from childhood to adulthood. It usually begins between ages 8 and 14 for girls and 9 and 13 for boys. During puberty, older children and teens experience both sexual changes as well as growth spurts. The human body grows more quickly during puberty than any other time, except for babyhood. Let's look at the five stages of puberty and the changes associated with each stage.

Stages and Changes

Puberty can be separated into five stages. The characteristics for each stage vary for girls and boys.

Stage one of puberty is referred to as prepubertal. It typically begins between the ages of 8 and 11 for girls or ages 9 and 12 for boys. The primary changes associated with this stage occur inside the body. Hormonal changes start to occur during this time. Girls develop the ability to produce production, while boys experience an increase in the production of testosterone.

During stage two of puberty, the testicles in boys grow larger. Boys also start to experience body odor. The second stage is where girls experience initial breast development. They also grow their first pubic hairs. Just like with boys, girls may develop body odor during stage two. Girls also have a growth spurt during this stage. The second stage of puberty starts at age 11 or 12 for girls and age 12 or 13 for boys.

During stage three, boys between the ages of 13 and 14 start to grow pubic hair. The penis and testicles grow larger, and boys experience an increase in erections. Ejaculations, or wet dreams, may also occur during this stage. Boys may experience changes in their voice. Breasts continue to develop for girls 12-13 years old in stage three. Hair begins to grow under girls' armpits, and the vagina increases in size. Girls may experience vaginal discharge.

Fourteen to 15-year-old boys in stage four start to develop hair in various places, such as their armpits and face. Their voice deepens, and the rate of growth for height increases. The penis and testes continue to grow in size during this stage. During stage four, the rate of growth for height decreases in girls. Body fat composition in 13-14-year-old girls will reach that of adulthood. Both boys and girls will notice pubic and underarm hair becoming fuller and coarser during stage four. Menstruation usually occurs during stage three or stage four in girls.

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