The Growing Child: Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)
How much will my adolescent grow?
The teenage years are also called adolescence. Adolescence is a time for growth spurts
and puberty changes. An adolescent may grow several inches in several months followed
by a period of very slow growth, then have another growth spurt. Changes with puberty
(sexual maturation) may happen gradually or several signs may become visible at the
There is a great amount of variation in the rate of changes that may happen. Some
teenagers may experience these signs of maturity sooner or later than others.
What changes will happen during puberty?
Sexual and other physical maturation that happens during puberty is a result of hormonal
changes. In boys, it is difficult to know exactly when puberty is coming. There are
changes that happen, but they happen gradually and over a period of time, rather than
as a single event. While each male adolescent is different, the following are average
ages when puberty changes may happen:
Beginning of puberty: 9.5 to 14 years old
First pubertal change: enlargement of the testicles
Penis enlargement: begins approximately 1 year after the testicles begin enlarging
Appearance of pubic hair: 13.5 years old
Nocturnal emissions (or "wet dreams"): 14 years old
Hair under the arms and on the face, voice change, and acne: 15 years old
Girls also experience puberty as a sequence of events, but their pubertal changes
usually begin before boys of the same age. Each girl is different and may progress
through these changes differently. The following are average ages when puberty changes
Beginning of puberty: 8 to 13 years
First pubertal change: breast development
Pubic hair development: shortly after breast development
Hair under the arms: 12 years old
Menstrual periods: 10 to 16.5 years old
There are specific stages of development that both boys and girls go through when
developing secondary sexual characteristics. These are the physical characteristics
of males and females that are not involved in reproduction, such as voice changes,
body shape, pubic hair distribution, and facial hair. The following is a brief overview
of the changes that happen:
In boys, the initial puberty change is the enlargement of the scrotum and testes.
At this point, the penis does not enlarge. Then, as the testes and scrotum continue
to enlarge, the penis gets longer. Next, the penis will continue to grow in both size
In girls, the initial puberty change is the development of breast buds. This is when
the breast and nipple elevate. The areola (dark area of skin that surrounds the nipple
of the breast) increases in size at this time. The breasts then continue to enlarge.
Eventually, the nipples and the areolas will elevate again. They then form another
projection on the breasts. At the adult state, only the nipple remains elevated above
the rest of the breast tissue.
Pubic hair development is similar for both girls and boys. The initial growth of hair
produces long, soft hair that is only in a small area around the genitals. This hair
then becomes darker and coarser as it continues to spread. The pubic hair eventually
looks like adult hair, but in a smaller area. It may spread to the thighs and, sometimes,
up the stomach.
What does my adolescent understand?
The teenage years bring many changes, not only physically, but also mentally and socially.
During these years, adolescents increase their ability to think abstractly and eventually
make plans and set long-term goals. Each child may progress at a different rate and
may have a different view of the world. In general, the following are some of the
abilities that may be evident in your adolescent:
Develops the ability to think abstractly
Is concerned with philosophy, politics, and social issues
Compares one's self to one's peers
As your adolescent begins to struggle for independence and control, many changes may
happen. The following are some of the issues that may be involved with your adolescent
during these years:
Wants independence from parents
Peer influence and acceptance becomes very important
Romantic and sexual relationships become important
May be in love
Has long-term commitment in relationship
How to assist your adolescent in developing socially
Consider the following as ways to foster your adolescent's social abilities:
Encourage your adolescent to take on new challenges.
Talk with your adolescent about not losing sight of one's self in group relations.
Encourage your adolescent to talk to a trusted adult about problems or concerns, even
if it is not you he or she chooses to talk with.
Discuss ways to manage and handle stress.
Provide consistent, loving discipline with limits, restrictions, and rewards.
Find ways to spend time together.