What are normal puberty, precocious puberty, and delayed puberty?
The time in one's life when sexual maturity takes place is known as puberty. The physical changes that mark puberty typically begin in girls between ages 8 and 13 and in boys between ages 9 and 14.
Precocious puberty is a condition that occurs when sexual maturity begins earlier than normal. Precocious (meaning prematurely developed) puberty begins before age 8 for girls and before age 9 for boys.
Children affected by precocious puberty may experience problems such as1:
- Failure to reach their full height because their growth halts too soon
- Psychological and social problems, such as anxiety over being "different" from their peers. However, many children do not experience major psychological or social problems, particularly when the onset of puberty is only slightly early.
Delayed puberty is the term for a condition in which the body's timing for sexual maturity is later than the normal range of ages.
Many children with delayed puberty will eventually go through an otherwise normal puberty, just at a late age. Other children have a long-lasting condition known as hypogonadism (pronounced HI-poe-GO-nad-iz-uhm) in which the sex glands (the testes in men and the ovaries in women) produce few or no hormones. For example, hypogonadism can occur in girls with Turner syndrome or in individuals with hypogonadotropic (pronounced HI-po-GO-nah-doe-TROH-pik) hypogonadism, which occurs when the hypothalamus (pronounced HI-po-THAL-uh-muss) produces little to no gonadotropin-releasing hormone (pronounced goh-nad-uh-TROH-pin) (GnRH).
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2011). Precocious puberty. Retrieved June 4, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002152