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What does puberty mean?

Puberty is when a child begins to grow and develop into an adult.

The average age for girls to start puberty is 11 and for boys, it’s a bit later, at 12 years old.

However, everyone’s body is different so some children might start puberty earlier or later than these ages and other people. For example, some children start puberty as early as eight years old and others might not start until around the age of 14. It all depends on when your body is ready.

Usually, it takes around four years to go through the whole process of puberty.

During puberty you will experience changes to your body and the way you feel.

How will my body change during puberty?

Your body will go through a lot of changes during puberty because you need to start developing into an adult.

It might feel a bit strange when you start noticing changes in your body. Don’t worry; it’s all natural but if you are feeling worried, you could speak to an adult you trust at home or at school.

There are different changes that can happen to the way your body looks. Boys and girls can experience a lot of the same physical changes to their bodies, including:

  • Sweating more
  • Oily skin
  • Getting spots or acne
  • Changes to body shape
  • Changes to weight
  • Growing taller
  • Developing body hair, including pubic and underarm hair.

How do boys’ bodies change during puberty?

Body changes that can happen to male bodies include:

  • Developing a deeper voice
  • Developing broader shoulders
  • Growing facial hair
  • Growth of the penis and testicles
  • Getting erections and producing sperm cells.

How do girls’ bodies change during puberty?

Changes that can happen to female bodies include:

  • Having periods
  • Producing vaginal discharge
  • Developing breasts
  • Growing wider hips.

How could I change emotionally during puberty?

Puberty is caused by chemicals in the brain called hormones. When you start puberty, this means that your hormones have sent messages to your body to start changing and developing into an adult.

Your hormones are also linked to your emotions, which is why you can go through changes in how you feel during puberty. For example, it’s possible to start feeling unhappy or angry, without even knowing why.

These emotional changes are known as mood swings and they’re a normal part of going through puberty and growing up.

If you find you’re always feeling upset or down and this is affecting your everyday life, then you should speak to an adult you trust about how you are feeling because they can help and support you. This could be parents or carers, teachers or your school nurse.

This information has been provided by our school nurses and NHS Choices.