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When does puberty start?

As children grow into young adults, parents often have questions about puberty and the changes their child is going through. Pediatrician Donna Smith, MD, answers some of these questions in this DiscoverHealth.org series on puberty.

At what age does puberty start, and when will it end?

Puberty generally starts around 8 to 10 for girls and 11 to 13 for boys, though that can vary. 

What are the first signs of puberty? 

First, you may notice the development of body odor. It's normal to start wearing deodorant by 7 to 8 years old. 

Then watch for a rapid jump in shoe size. When you see this, puberty usually soon follows.

For girls: You will see the onset of breast buds first around 8 years of age. These are firm and sometimes tender or sensitive and are just underneath the nipple area. This is followed by the development of hair in the groin area. Menstruation usually start when the genital area is mostly covered in hair, which is usually 11 to 12 years of age. 

Boys may develop breast buds around the same age as girls, but they usually go away on their own. They also begin to have testicular enlargement, followed by the growth of hair in their armpits and groin, and a deepening of the voice.

The onset of puberty is more varied in boys. That is why seventh grade is such a challenging year socially, especially for boys, as some have not started puberty yet while others may be shaving. Boys may even continue to grow in college, while most females do not gain significant height after the onset of menstruation.

What if my child hasn’t started puberty yet and should have?

If there are no signs of puberty by 14 or 15 years old and if girls are not menstruating by 15 years old we usually initiate some basic evaluation. Please see your child or adolescent's primary physician for any concerns. 

Donna Smith, MD, is a pediatrician at Medical Group of the Carolinas — Pediatrics — Spartanburg —Westside. To make an appointment, call 864-560-9600.