There are many physical changes that occur during puberty. The physical changes are caused by a massive surge in hormone production. The most startling change during puberty is the adolescent growth spurt. This growth spurt usually occurs between the ages of ten and a half to thirteen in girls and about two years later for boys. Also during this time the reproductive organs of both sexes mature. Secondary sex characteristics appear. Girls develop breasts and their hips round. Boys’ voices deepen and facial and chest hair appears. Both sexes grow pubic and axillary hair. A major landmark in males of puberty is the first ejaculation. For females the onset of menstruation is the major landmark.
Physical appearance has a stronger role on self-image during adolescence than in any other time during a person’s life. The timing of puberty can have important psychological consequences, coming as it does at a time when a sense of security is gained from being like other members of the peer group.
The timing of puberty can be very important. Early maturation in males seems to give the boy important advantages and enhanced status in the peer group. Early-maturing boys are taller and stronger than their classmates and therefore have an advantage in sports and get the girls attention. These boys are likely to have a positive body image, to feel confident, secure, independent and happy. They are also often more academically successful.
Late maturing boys are often at a disadvantage both socially and athletically and are judged as less attractive by both peers and adults. They are self-conscious about their size and lake of manly traits. These boys are often subjected to bullying.
Early-maturing girls feel more self-conscious about their developing bodies and their size. These girls also have to deal with the sexual advances of older boys before they are emotionally or psychologically mature. They are also more likely to be exposed to alcohol and drug use and are more likely to have early sexual experiences and unwanted pregnancies. They tend to not do as well academically. When their peers catch up to them the early-maturers tend to be shorter and heavier and likely to be unhappy.
Late-maturing girls often experience considerable stress when they fail to develop physically allowing with their peers.