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puberty (pyo͞oˈbərtē), 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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


Shtefko, V. G. “Vvedenie v izuchenie anatomo-biologicheskikh osobennostei pubertatnogo vozrasta.” In Osnovy vozrastnoi morfologii. Moscow, 1933.
Lebedinskaia, K. S. Psikhicheskie narusheniia u detei s patologiei tempa polovogo sozrevaniia. Moscow, 1969.
Sal’nikova, G. P. Fizicheskoe razvitie shkol’nikov. Moscow, 1968.
Solov’eva, V. S. “Uroven’ polovogo sozrevaniia kak odin iz pokazatelei biologicheskogo vozrasta organizma podrostka i aspekty ego primeneniia.” In Host i razvitie rebenka. Moscow, 1973. Pages 152–88.
Donovan, B. T., and J. J. van der Werff ten Bosch. Fiziologiia polovogo razvitiia. Moscow, 1974. (Translated from English.)
Tanner, J. M. Growth at Adolescence, 2nd ed. Oxford, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The period at which the generative organs become capable of exercising the function of reproduction; signalized in the boy by a change of voice and discharge of semen, in the girl by the appearance of the menses.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


the period at the beginning of adolescence when the sex glands become functional and the secondary sexual characteristics emerge
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
LIN28B expression was distributed in the HPGA, and although LIN28B expression was decreased in the hypothalamus and ovary prior to the onset of puberty, neither let-7a nor let-7b levels were significantly increased.
It is reported that inadequate and unbalanced nutrition, processed foods and the consumption of foods with high fat and sugar contents may be the cause of the increased incidence in childhood obesity recently and the early onset of puberty in girls (34).
Inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) diagnosis of SGA (Birth weight and/or length < -2 SDS), (2) treatment with recombinant human GH (rGH), given continuously on a daily basis during at least 3 years when treatment started before puberty and at least 2 years when started near the onset of puberty, (3) breast stage <B3 for girls and a testicular volume < 10 ml for boys at the start of GH therapy, and (4) achievement of AH, defined as a height velocity < 2 cm/year.
Relatively higher expression of these genes was observed in the adipose tissue of goat at the onset of puberty compared to the pre-puberty stage.
To determine the relationship between nutritional status and age at onset of puberty, this age range was further categorised as shown in Table 3, which indicates the influence of nutritional status on the age of pubertal onset.
in their study, concluded that other factors, such as drug use, head trauma, obstetric complications and family history of schizophrenia do not affect the association between age at onset of schizophrenia and age at onset of puberty (27).
However, few reports mention the geographical association between childhood overweight and early onset of puberty. This is probably because of the confounding effects of many other factors.
Soon after, Biro and colleagues gathered data on a cross section of American girls for a research project into possible environmental contributors to the onset of puberty. The new findings, published in 2010 in Pediatrics, support the idea that girls are developing breasts earlier, with results that vary widely by race.
The data supports the hypothesis of Heger et al,10 according to whom the relation between obesity in children and earlier onset of puberty is controversial.
Buying your first bra represents the onset of puberty and is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your daughter.
Chapter topics in this well-organized, slim volume include "Puberty Basics," "Outside Changes," "Inside Changes," Periods," "Caring for Your Body," and "Public or Private." Each section gives a thorough overview of all of the changes that will happen to a tween during the onset of puberty.
Multidisciplinary contributors treat subjective and objective factors in problem behavior, e.g., a contextual amplification hypothesis holds that the early onset of puberty increases risk in adverse psychosocial contexts; a qualitative pathways approach that leads to help-seeking behaviors that are criminalized (e.g., running away); and the effects of bullying, parent training programs, and intergenerational legacies of health and behavior problems.