puberty(redirected from onset of puberty)
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the period in an animal’s development during which, as a result of profound internal changes, it attains sexual maturity, or the ability to reproduce.
In man, puberty is marked by accelerated growth of some parts of the skeleton followed by establishment of the body’s definitive proportions, the formation of secondary sex characteristics and final development of the sexual organs. An important feature of puberty is the release from the body of products of the external and internal secretions of the sexual glands. In girls this leads to the onset of the menstrual cycle, and in boys to the ability to ejaculate, usually at first in the form of noctural emissions.
During puberty there is a restructuring of hormonal regulation and of physical and mental development. The latter includes sexual awareness, that is, the awareness that the individual belongs to a specific sex and the ability to regulate sexual behavior in accordance with society’s moral and ethical standards. Several stages may be distinguished in the growth of sexual awareness: elementary and nonsensual notions of sexual differences, platonic love, the awakening of specifically sexual feelings associated with the genital area, and mature sexual awareness, which is the harmonious correlation of all its components.
The onset and tempo of puberty are determined by the interaction of inherent physical factors and environmental influences. The age of the onset of puberty varies widely within the following limits, with allowance made for the processes of acceleration. In girls puberty occurs between eight and 17 years of age, and in boys between ten and 20. Unfavorable living conditions and such factors as poor diet or disease are reflected in disharmonic, retarded, and occasionally accelerated physical, mental, and sexual development.
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Lebedinskaia, K. S. Psikhicheskie narusheniia u detei s patologiei tempa polovogo sozrevaniia. Moscow, 1969.
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G. S. VASIL’CHENKO