The average age for the onset of puberty is 10 years old for girls and 11 years old for boys. Puberty doesn’t always show up on schedule though; signs of puberty can show up several years before the average and still be considered within the normal range. Precocious puberty is when young children begin puberty It is defined as puberty beginning before the age of 7 or 8 in girls and the age of 9 in boys. Children as young as 3 years old have shown signs of entering puberty.
Signs of precocious puberty include:
- Pubic and underarm hair
- Rapid growth spurt
- Body odor
Girls might also have breast development and menstruation. Boys might experience enlargement of the testicles and a deepening of the voice. Many children may only experience partial precocious puberty, where some signs are evident but not all signs of puberty develop.
Precocious Puberty and Height
Children continue growing until the end of puberty and then stop. When puberty starts early and they go through an early growth spurt they may stop growing early. They may be much taller than their peers early, because of the growth spurt. Some children with precocious puberty do not grow to their full adult height. They may be shorter than they would have been had puberty occurred during the normal years.
Causes of Precocious Puberty
In girls, the causes are precocious puberty usually are unknown. Sometimes it can occur as a result of brain trauma or illness, however, in most cases the reasons remain a mystery. In boys, precocious puberty is more often associated with an underlying medical condition. Precocious puberty occurs much less frequently in boys.
Precocious puberty may run in families, especially for boys. Approximately 5 percent of boys experiencing this have a family member that also went through puberty early. This number is much smaller in girls, with less than 1 percent considered inherited.
If there is an underlying medical condition, this should be treated. If this is the case, that might stop the process. If there is not an underlying medical condition, the choice is to let puberty continue or to treat with hormone therapy to stop sexual development.
It is best to talk with your doctor about all your options and to consider the possible effects on your child. Some children may experiment sexually earlier than their peers. They may have body-image problems and self-esteem issues. They may have a hard time dealing with the ups and downs of emotions that come along with puberty. Some studies show that girls entering puberty early have more behavior problems and a greater risk of substance or alcohol abuse.
“Precocious Puberty,” Updated 2013, Aug. 22, Updated by Neil, K. Kaneshiro, M.D., A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia
“Precocious Puberty (Early Puberty),” Updated 2012, November, Kyla Boyse and Randall Phelps, University of Michigan Health System
Published On: March 05, 2014