Hormones and puberty

Puberty is the stage in life when a child's body develops into an adult's body. The changes take place gradually, usually between the ages of 10 and 16.

Changes occur at puberty because of the hormones:

  • testosterone - produced by the testes - controls the development of male secondary sexual characteristics
  • oestrogen - produced by the ovaries - controls the development of female secondary sexual characteristics

The development of secondary sexual characteristics is shown in the table below.

Boys onlyBoys & girlsGirls only
Voice breaksPubic hair growsVoice deepens gradually
Hair grows on face and bodyUnderarm hair growsHips get wider
Body becomes more muscularSexual organs grow and developBreasts develop
Testes start to produce sperm cellsOvaries start to release egg cells - menstruation starts

You can see that some of the changes in puberty happen to both sexes, whilst others only occur in males or females. Both boys and girls will have a growth spurt during which time their height increases more quickly than at any other time in their life. This tends to happen earlier in girls. The graph below shows this.

A graph to show the different growth rates between boys and girls.Boys and girls grow at different rates