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Physiological Changes in Teenagers

by Alice Drinkworth

During adolescence, a child experiences body changes that seem to appear overnight. The changes can be a source of pride for a teenager, because they are markers of approaching adulthood. These changes can also make a teen feel self-conscious and clumsy while he is becoming accustomed to these changes. While all teens grow at their own pace, they can expect similar physiological changes during adolescence.

Rapid Growth

You can expect rapid growth in height and weight during your child's adolescence. Boys will grow an average of about 4.1 inches in a year at the peak of their growth spurt, and girls will grow about 3.5 inches. Girls experience their growth spurt between the ages of 9 and 14, approximately two years earlier than boys, according to Virginia State University. You can also expect your teen to gain weight, as boys put on muscle and girls put on fat. Variances in growth can cause teenagers to feel self conscious about their bodies. Teens may feel they are all limbs -- and at times, this could be true. According to the Yale - New Haven Teachers Institute, the first growth spurts of adolescents centers on the limb extremities. Arms and legs get longer, giving a teen a gangly appearance. The facial shape changes as the chin and nose lengthens.

Sexual Changes

The onset of the first menstruation marks the beginning of puberty for girls. This can start anytime between 10 and 15 years old, and this marks the beginning of fertility. Menstruation typically starts two years after breast buds develop, which can be as early as 8 year old, according to The University of Maryland Medical Center. Breasts fully develop as early as 12 years old or as late as 18. Sexual development in boys is less noticeable. The most remarkable occurrence is the onset of nocturnal emissions, or wet dreams, at the peak of growth. The penis grows and lengthens to its adult size and shape by age 17. Boys’ voices change at the peak of their growth spurt, growing deeper and sometimes cracking as the voice develops.

Hair Growth

One of the more noticeable and celebrated changes in teenagers is hair growth. Both males and females can expect pubic hair to grow. This may start as much as three years earlier in females, starting as early as age 9 and reaching adult patterns by age 14, according to the University of Maryland. Armpit and leg hair will also develop during this time. Males may start to notice pubic hair at age 12, and might not develop adult patterns until 16. Facial hair begins as a shadow over the lip. Chest hair in males typically develops post puberty.

Body Odor and Acne

Two disturbing changes during adolescence are the occurrence of body odor and acne. Hormones that cause sexual maturation and other body changes also lead to increased oil production. According to Yale - New Haven Teachers Institute, both males and females will notice changes in their skin as it becomes coarser and the sebaceous glands produce more oil that can cause acne and blackheads. Sweat glands also become more active, and the combination of sweat and oils causes an odor, making the use of deodorant a necessity. Teens need to be more vigilant with hygiene to keep up with their body changes.

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