Normal commencement of puberty
In girls, normal puberty starts with breast development.
In boys, normal puberty starts with testicular enlargement.
Normal end of puberty
Puberty is complete in girls after periods start.
Puberty in boys is complete once the voice has broken and shaving is established.
Timing of puberty is strongly influenced by family history, i.e. a girl is likely to have delayed puberty if her mother had delayed puberty, and a boy is likely to have delayed puberty if his father had delayed puberty.
Children or young people who have puberty problems due to a brain tumour will have other symptoms or signs. These should be looked for carefully.
Precocious (early) puberty is any sign of puberty in girls before the age of 8; in boys before the age of 9.
In girls, precocious puberty is fairly common and no cause is found in around 90% of cases.
In boys, precocious puberty is less common and underlying causes must be ruled out.
If you are concerned about early puberty in your child, they should be seen by a doctor. If this is accompanied by one or more other symptoms from the HeadSmart symptoms list, discuss this at your appointment.
The timing and duration of puberty varies greatly between individuals. It can be difficult for young people if they feel they are ahead or behind their peers, and this may sometimes worry them. Mostly, however, this is just natural variation.
There are medical definitions of early and delayed puberty, but if you (or a young person in your care) meet these criteria, it does not necessarily mean that anything is wrong; although it might mean that this is something that should be checked out.
Delayed puberty in girls is said to be present if there are no signs of puberty by the age of 13, or no periods by age 16. Delayed puberty in boys is said to be present if there are no signs of puberty by age 14.
Arrested (suspended) puberty is present if puberty started normally but then does not progress. In young females, this includes when periods start and then stop.
Young people who experience delayed or arrested puberty should be seen by a doctor. If this is accompanied by two or more other symptoms from the HeadSmart symptoms list, an urgent appointment should be made.
If you are a young person and you are concerned about your symptoms, it's best to get them checked out by your GP. Select for more information about seeing your GP. You might think puberty can be an awkward subject to talk about, but your doctor should be understanding and keen to see how he or she can help.
If you are a parent or carer of a young person, and you are concerned about their symptoms, explain that you think they should go to the GP and offer to make them an appointment. Bear in mind that, depending on their age and circumstances, they may choose to go to the GP on their own, although many appreciate having a parent or carer with them, whatever their age.
If you are worried about the child, make an appointment with your doctor.
If the symptoms of signs are sudden onset or severe, either take them to the emergency department or call 999