Puberty is a time of growth and hormonal changes for children. The physical and emotional aspects
affect both sexes as their bodies begin to change. Most often girls begin showing signs of puberty before boys, although each sex has its own early pre-puberty symptoms.
Hair Growth and Adrenarche
Puberty in girls generally begins between 9 and 13 and will first appear with hair growth under the arms and in the pubic region. Although this alone is not indicative of puberty, it is a good early indication. Hair growth is usually accompanied by body odour and acne. This combination is called adrenarche, an increase in activity from the adrenal glands. Adrenarche is most common in girls over age eight. If these symptoms are present in girls younger than eight, particularly if other signs of puberty are present, parents should consult a paediatrician.
Breast Buds and Growth
Breast budding is the first of five stages of breast development and is an indication of pre-puberty in girls. An increase in female hormones will make buds sore and sensitive to touch. This sensitivity is a good indication that breast budding is occurring, rather than simply being fat tissue. Since these buds are the result of increased oestrogen, they are not definitive proof of puberty, as a temporary increase in breast tissue is occasionally present in toddlers and infants. Rapid growth, both in height and in muscle mass, is a common precursor to puberty. The hormones that cause pre-puberty are responsible for growth and are also responsible for stopping growth. If puberty begins too early, the girl may reach a shorter maximum height than those who undergo puberty later in life.
Pre-Puberty in Boys
Boys tend to begin puberty a bit later than girls, generally starting between 10 and 14. As with girls, boys experience certain physical and emotional changes during pre-puberty. Boys will undergo the same body hair growth and body odour as girls, but will also start growing facial hair. Due to the increased testosterone, boys will also experience an enlargement of the penis and testicles, voice changes, acne, broadening of the chest and increased muscle growth.
Emotional changes are a common part of pre-puberty and will last throughout adolescence and the teen years. The brain spends these years producing hormones for sexual maturation which encourages mood swings and other emotional changes. Parents most often notice irritability, moodiness, anger and a tendency to become easily embarrassed. These chemical changes may also appear to be rude behaviour, arrogance and selfishness. Many of these moods are a result of hormones, although some may be the effect of feeling different from their peers. This feeling is especially prevalent in girls and is particularly strong in those undergoing puberty at an early age.