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What part of the body stops growing first?

Puberty

Puberty is the time in your child’s life when they transition from a child to an adult. Special hormones are produced and released that trigger the signs of puberty. Your child will go through the five stages of puberty. By the end of the process, they’ll have reached sexual maturity.

What is puberty?

Puberty is when your child’s body begins to develop and change as they transition into adulthood. It’s the time in your child’s life when they go through the physical changes to reach sexual maturity and are capable of reproduction. The stages of puberty follow a definite path with a progression of physical changes. The emotional changes of puberty may not progress at the same pace as the physical changes. Both the physical and emotional changes of puberty begin and end at different ages for each child.

Puberty starts when a part of your child’s brain called the hypothalamus begins producing a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). The hypothalamus sends GnRH to another part of the brain called the pituitary gland. GnRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release two more hormones — luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These hormones travel to the sex organs (ovaries and testes), triggering them to begin releasing sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone). These messenger hormones cause the telltale signs of puberty to begin.

When do boys start puberty?

Boys begin puberty sometime between the ages of 9 and 14. Boys hit puberty about two years later than girls. However, Black and Hispanic boys tend to enter puberty a bit earlier than white boys. If your son starts showing signs of puberty before age 9, it’s worth asking his pediatrician about these early changes. Similarly, if no signs of puberty have happened by age 15, it’s worth asking his pediatrician about this delay.

What are the stages of puberty for boys?

A tool called the Tanner stages outlines the stages of puberty for boys and when they’re likely to occur. There are separate Tanner stages for penis/testicles and pubic hair. For parents, the Tanner stages can serve as an excellent guide to the changes you can expect to see in your son. There are five stages of puberty for boys.

Stage 1 is prepubertal. In this stage, boys haven’t experienced any visible changes.

In Stage 2, physical changes begin. Between the ages of 9 and 14, boys typically begin to experience:

  • Genital development (growth of their testicles and scrotum).
  • Growth of sparse hair around their penis and under their arms.
  • An increase in height (typically about 2 to 2½ inches per year), which could bring growing pains.

In Stage 3, physical changes speed up. Between the ages of 10 and 16, boys experience:

  • Continued growth of their penis and testicles, as well as possible “wet dreams.” Wet dreams are ejaculation at night while they sleep.
  • Darkening, coarsening pubic hair in the shape of a triangle in their genital area.
  • Continued increase in height (about 2¾ to just over 3 inches per year).
  • More sweating, which can lead to body odor.
  • Vocal changes (and cracking in the process).
  • Increased muscle mass.

Some breast development, or gynecomastia, occurs in about 50% of all teenage boys, but it typically resolves by the end of puberty. It’s most common between the ages of 11 and 15. If this becomes an issue physically or socially, you should talk with your child’s healthcare provider.

In Stage 4, puberty hits full stride. Between the ages of 11 and 16 years, boys experience:

  • Growth in penis size and darkening of the skin on their scrotum and testicles. Red ridges on their testicles called rugae will begin to develop.
  • Body hair growth that reaches adult levels. Pubic hair remains in a coarse triangle.
  • A peak growth spurt that averages nearly 4 inches per year.
  • Development of acne.
  • Continued cracking of the voice.

Stage 5 is the final phase. Puberty ends in this stage. Boys finish their growth and physical development. Many may not develop facial hair until this step in the process. Pubic hair may extend out to their thighs, and some boys may have a line of hair up to their belly button. Most boys finish growing by age 17, but some may continue growing through their early 20s.

What kind of emotions do boys go through during puberty?

When your son enters puberty, you may or may not see some emotional upheaval. Increased testosterone coupled with social pressures may cause moody behavior, emotional outbursts and family discord. Parents can typically ride out these issues. Listen actively, and ask when your son wants your opinion and when he just wants to be heard. Keep telling him you love him and are there for him. Step in whenever there are issues of safety or morality, setting loving limits in those instances.

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If serious emotional problems arise — signs of anxiety, depression or extreme mood swings— it’s important to have him evaluated by his healthcare provider. This can display itself as him withdrawing, choosing not to do things he used to enjoy, isolation from friends and family, or a drop in grades. Emotional issues could be a sign of a mood disorder or other psychological concerns. Medication and/or therapy may be useful in these instances.

What if puberty hits really early or late?

Not everyone is on the same timetable. Some boys begin to see changes very early, which is called precocious puberty. Others may not see changes until later, which is often referred to as delayed puberty.

Early (precocious) puberty: If your son shows signs of puberty before the age of 9, make a call to his healthcare provider. This may signal a pituitary gland problem or neurological issue. Your son’s healthcare provider should evaluate him as soon as you suspect a problem.

Possible causes for early puberty include:

  • The pituitary gland “turning on” hormones too early.
  • Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland).
  • A tumor on the adrenal gland or elsewhere.

If the problem is hormonal, an endocrinologist can prescribe puberty blockers to halt puberty until the time is right. Puberty blockers are medications that prevent your child’s body from producing the sex hormones that cause the physical changes of puberty. If your son’s healthcare provider suspects another problem, your son may be referred for further testing.

Delayed puberty: If your son starts puberty after age 14 or isn’t progressing through puberty, you’ll also want to check with his healthcare provider. Your son may just be a late bloomer — particularly if his father was as well.

But hormone or endocrine abnormalities can also delay puberty. If your child’s healthcare provider suspects an underlying problem, your son will likely be referred to a specialist for more testing.

When do girls start puberty?

Girls generally begin puberty about two years earlier than boys. Puberty for girls usually starts between the ages of 8 and 13. However, Black and Hispanic girls tend to start puberty earlier than white girls (age 7½ instead of 8).

What are the stages of puberty for girls?

The Tanner stages also outlines the stages of puberty for girls and when they’re likely to occur. There are separate Tanner stages for breasts and pubic hair. The Tanner stages can serve as an excellent guide to the changes you can expect to see in your daughter. There are five stages of puberty for girls.

Stage 1 is prepubertal. In this stage, girls haven’t experienced any visible changes.

In Stage 2, physical changes begin. Between the ages of 8 and 13, girls typically experience:

  • Their breasts begin to bud, and their areolas (pigmented area around the nipple) enlarge.
  • Scant pubic hair appears.
  • Height increases by about 2¾ inches per year.

In Stage 3, physical changes speed up. Between the ages of 9 and 14:

  • Their breasts continue budding.
  • Underarm hair begins to grow, and pubic hair continues to grow. Pubic hair is coarse, curly and in the shape of a triangle.
  • A growth spurt of more than 3 inches per year occurs.
  • Their skin becomes oilier, and acne develops.

In Stage 4, puberty hits full stride. Between the ages of 10 and 15:

  • Their breasts continue growing, and their nipples start to protrude.
  • Pubic hair is still in a triangle, and there are now too many hairs to count.
  • Growth may continue at the rate of about 2¾ inches per year.
  • Problems with acne may continue.

Periods (menstruation) typically start around age 12 (usually around the same age their mother’s and sisters’ periods began). Some girls, especially those with disordered eating, start later.

Stage 5 is the final phase. Development typically ends in this stage. Girls reach physical adulthood. Pubic hair may extend out to their thighs, and some girls may have a line of hair up to their belly button. Most girls attain their peak height by age 16, but some may continue growing through age 20.

What kind of emotions do girls go through during puberty?

All girls go through emotional changes during puberty. Some are affected more than others as estrogen and progesterone cycle through their bodies.

The combination of social and school pressures and moodiness can cause emotional outbursts and conflict with parents. You may think your sweet girl has turned into a mean girl. When you see her actions impacting others, it’s worth providing her with a safe space to “feel all her feels,” or share her emotions.

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Step in whenever there are issues of safety or morality, and otherwise provide safe harbor for her to explore her new identity. Avoid being a helicopter parent or a “snowplow,” shoveling all stress out of her way. Allowing her to learn from her mistakes, as long as they’re not life-threatening ones, shows your confidence in her ability to problem-solve for herself.

If you see signs of anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges, share your concerns with her healthcare provider. Sometimes, prescribing hormonal therapy, such as birth control medication, can ease symptoms and improve mood. Other times, she may need counseling or other medications to help manage moods and build skills to develop resiliency and fine-tune her strengths.

What if puberty hits really early or late?

Not everyone will through go puberty at the same time. Some girls begin to see changes very early, which is called precocious puberty. Other girls may not see changes until later, which is sometimes called delayed puberty.

Precocious (early) puberty: A few red flags signal unusual development in girls. These include:

  • Showing signs of puberty before their 8th birthday.
  • Body changes that progress very quickly.
  • Body changes that occur “out of order,” such as starting periods before developing breasts.
  • A major disconnect between pubic hair development and breast development (such as no pubic hair but fully developing breasts, or vice versa).

If these occur, mention it to your child’s healthcare provider. Simple testing can help determine the cause of precocious puberty, such as:

  • The pituitary gland may have “turned on” the hormones too early.
  • A tumor may be developing on the adrenal gland or elsewhere.
  • Your daughter may have been exposed to estrogen (through estrogen cream, for instance).

Your child’s healthcare provider may simply wait and monitor your daughter’s progress, or refer her to a specialist for tests. If needed, an endocrinologist can prescribe puberty blockers to halt puberty until the appropriate time. Puberty blockers are medications that prevent your child’s body from producing the sex hormones that cause the physical changes of puberty.

Delayed puberty: If your daughter starts puberty very late or doesn’t seem to be progressing through puberty, it’s also worth asking her healthcare provider about it. She may just be a late bloomer, especially if her mother was.

However, hormonal problems or disordered eating are other possibilities. If your child’s healthcare provider suspects an underlying problem, they may refer your child to a specialist for testing and management.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Puberty can be a very exciting but challenging time in your child’s life. Along with physical changes, your child may also experience many emotional changes. Most children start puberty between the ages of 8 and 14. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, reach out to their healthcare provider. They can evaluate your child and determine if they’re developing properly.

Can a Man Still Grow at 24?

Can a man still grow at 24?

Although it is hard to increase your height as an adult, there are ways by which you can maximize your height during your teenage years.

Although some men may continue to grow in their 20s, most men’s growth plates are closed by 21 years. Hence, it is unlikely for men to grow after 21 years, with some exceptions.

In a healthy growth pattern, your bone increases in length due to the growth plates in the bone called epiphyses. During puberty, your epiphyses mature, and at the end of puberty, they fuse and stop growing.

Growth stops in the following order:

  • Hands and feet stop growing
  • Arms and legs stop growing
  • The spine growth stops

Once the epiphyses fuse, the person’s height does not increase anymore. A person’s growth is controlled by growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.

8 factors that determine your height

Your height depends on various factors, including:

  1. Genetics: Your height is primarily determined by genetics or rather by the height of your parents. Studies have reported that height in twins is related. For example, if one twin is tall, the other twin tends to be tall. Similarly, people having well-built and tall parents are more likely to be tall and well-built, whereas people having short parents are more likely to be short. According to studies, 60 to 80 percent of growth is determined by genetics, whereas 20 to 40 percent is determined by other factors such as nutrition and lifestyle.
  2. Nutrition: Nutrition can play a key role in determining your growth, as visible trends in height are taken worldwide. A study has reported that malnourished children and adults may not achieve their desired growth and fail to survive. In the same study, the height difference between 1896 and 1996 has been highlighted. With increased awareness about nutrition and lifestyle, people today have better growth and development, on average, than their ancestors 1,000 years ago.
  3. Cultural reasons: Cultural factors can affect the height of human beings. Some changes in the geographical area distribution can significantly influence a child’s height.
  4. Socioeconomic reasons: Socioeconomic factors can play a significant role in children’s growth. Some ways in which socioeconomic factors can influence physical growth include:
    • Children of higher socioeconomic status, including higher income, have better growth due to adequate nutrition, better childcare, and better medical and social services.
    • In a developed country, obesity is commonly seen in lower social classes due to poor diet, whereas the reverse is true in a developing country.
    • The size of a family can indirectly influence the height because children in large families are usually smaller and lighter.
  5. Sex: Women tend to be shorter than men. Girls hit puberty earlier than boys, meaning the ends of their growing bones fuse earlier. Moreover, hormonal differences in boys (such as higher testosterone levels) stimulate the bones to grow thicker and longer.
  6. Certain medical conditions: Some of the medical conditions that can affect height include
    • Turner syndrome (genetic problems occurring in girls due to complete or partial absence of one X chromosome)
    • Down syndrome (a genetic disorder that causes poor growth)
    • Achondroplasia (genetic bone disease)
    • Gigantism
    • Cushing syndrome
    • Precocious puberty
    • Dwarfism
    • Malnutrition
    • Cancer
    • Digestive tract diseases
  7. Exercise:Exercise or physical activity during childhood can significantly influence a person’s growth. Exercise can promote the release of growth hormones responsible for increasing height.
  8. Medications: A few studies have reported that children who take medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder tend to be marginally shorter than their peers. Other studies, however, have disproved this finding and stated that the child would likely catch up with their peers once the medications are stopped.
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SLIDESHOW

3 efficient ways to achieve your desired height before the age of 21 years

Although it is hard to increase your height as an adult, there are ways by which you can maximize your height during your teenage years, which include:

1. Good nutrition

A healthy diet comprising all the essential vitamins and minerals is crucial for growth. Some of the important minerals associated with growth and height include:

One of the best ways to prevent nutritional deficiency is to include fruits and vegetables in your diet. Including protein can be favorable for proper growth. Proteins from egg, soy, lean meats, and dairy can significantly affect your growth.

2. Adequate sleep

Growth and thyroid-stimulating hormones are normally released during sleep. Both these hormones are crucial for the proper development of bones. Sleep deprivation can suppress these hormones, thereby affecting your growth. Getting the recommended amount of sleep for your age might help you achieve your desired height. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recommended hours of sleep per day for different age groups are as follows:

Age groupRecommended hours of sleep per day (24 hours)
6 to 12 years9 to 12 hours
13 to 18 years8 to 10 hours

3. Regular exercise

Moderate physical activities can have a positive effect on growth. However, intensive physical training can negatively affect your height. Exercises that strengthen core muscles may help achieve your desired height. Some of the core stability exercises may include:

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3 ways to look taller after reaching 21 years

There are three ways by which you can look taller including:

  1. Wearing heels or inserts: Always choose shoes with taller heals, or you can even place inserts in your shoes to make you look taller.
  2. Maintaining a good posture: Maintaining a good posture will not only make you look taller but also prevent many issues, including
    • Prevents neck, shoulder, and back pain
    • Improves your flexibility
    • Reduces the risk of falling and maintains your balance
    • Helps digest food
    • Helps you breathe easily
    • Improves joint motion
  3. Losing weight and getting toned: A muscular body can make you confident about yourself. It can improve your posture and make you appear leaner and taller.

Being tall or short is mainly dependent on your genetic makeup, and it is always better to accept yourself the way you are. Try to embrace yourself the way you are and the fact that you cannot change yourself.

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References

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Growing up: Information for girls about puberty

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Puberty is a time when your body goes through many changes—you’re growing both physically and emotionally from a child into a teenager and eventually into an adult.

Although puberty doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone, it usually starts between 8 and 13 years for girls. It isn’t something that happens overnight, but a process that takes place over several years.

To help you understand, this is how your body works:

  • Puberty is controlled by hormones, which are natural chemicals made in your body. The hormones that are important during puberty in girls are made in the brain and in the ovaries.
  • Your ovaries are two small glands that lie on either side of your uterus. Starting at puberty, your ovaries release one or more tiny eggs each month.
  • Your uterus is a small organ in your lower abdomen near your bladder. When a woman becomes pregnant, this is where the baby grows.
  • Fallopian tubes are tube-shaped structures that lead from the ovaries to the uterus. They carry the eggs released from your ovaries to your uterus.
  • The hormones made in the ovaries are called estrogen and progesterone. They are responsible for most of the changes that will happen in your body during this time.

Changes to your body will happen gradually, over many years:

  • First your breasts will start to develop. This starts with just a little swelling under the nipple. It will take several years to reach your full adult breast size.
  • Your body grows more curves and your hips and thighs get a bit wider. It’s normal and healthy for you to gain weight while going through puberty.
  • You will start growing hair under your arms, on your legs and in your pubic area.
  • You will also grow in height. This “growth spurt” happens very quickly. On average, girls grow about 3 inches (8 cm) per year during the growth spurt. Girls usually stop growing taller about 2 years after starting their menstrual period.
  • Your genes (the code of information you inherited from your parents) will decide many things during this time, including: your height, your weight, the size of your breasts and even how much hair you have on your body.

What is menstruation?

Usually about 2 years after your breasts begin to form, you will have your first menstrual period. During menstruation (also known as your “period”) you will bleed from your vagina. Some girls get their first period as early as 9 or 10 years old, while others do not get it until later in their teens.

  • A “cycle” is the amount of time from the start of one menstrual period to the start of the next. Most girls have menstrual cycles that last anywhere from 21 to 35 days. The bleeding part of the cycle usually lasts a week or less.
  • When you first start to menstruate, your periods may not be regular. You might have a few periods that are 30 days apart, and then a couple of months without a period at all. This is normal. It can take up to 2 years for your cycle to become more regular.
  • The amount of blood that comes out of the vagina (menstrual “flow”) is different for everyone. Although you could never measure it, the amount of flow is pretty small—anywhere from a few spoonfuls to less than a ½ cup of blood.
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Each menstrual cycle follows this pattern:

  • An egg gets ripe and is released by one of your two ovaries. This is called ovulation.
  • In the days before ovulation, estrogen increases and causes your body to develop a thick uterine lining that is made of blood and tissue. This is how the uterus gets ready for a possible pregnancy.
  • If you have sex around this time and the egg is fertilized by sperm, it will travel to the uterus and attach itself to the cushiony wall. Then it slowly develops into a baby.
  • If the egg is not fertilized, it doesn’t attach to the wall of the uterus. The uterus doesn’t need the extra tissue lining, so it sheds it.
  • The blood, tissue and unfertilized egg leave the uterus, going through the vagina on the way out of your body. This is your period.

Menstruation is a normal, healthy part of being a woman and shouldn’t affect your day-to-day activities. You can still participate in sports and activities. Exercising may even help relieve the pain and discomfort of cramps. Some medicines, like ibuprofen can help ease the pain of cramps. If your cramps are so painful that they stop you from doing other things, like going to school or hanging out with friends, talk to your doctor.

Are there other changes I can expect?

  • More sweat. Since sweat can cause body odour, it helps to take a bath or shower every day.
  • Some girls develop acne (pimples). Washing your face in the morning and at night with regular, fragrance-free soap and water is important. If you do get pimples, acne lotions, creams and special soaps may help. If they don’t work, talk to your doctor about other treatments.
  • Attractions. Many people start to be romantically and sexually attracted to others during this time.

Will I feel different?

Not only do hormones cause physical changes in your body, they can also affect how you feel. Emotions during puberty may feel a bit like a roller coaster. You may:

  • Be afraid of the changes in your body one minute and excited about them the next.
  • Feel awkward or confused.
  • Laugh one moment and cry the next.
  • Get along and fight with good friends all in the same day.
  • Feel angry at times.
  • Feel grown up one day and like a child the next.

Sometimes, these changes can be overwhelming. You’re not alone. Like other teens, you’re going through a period of transition in your life. It can be both scary and exciting at the same time.

How can I take care of myself during puberty and throughout life?

Sleep

Your changing body needs sleep—lots of it. Puberty takes up a lot of energy. Most teens need at least 9 hours of sleep each night. Some need even more.

Food and exercise

Since a growing body needs food, you will often be hungry. Eating a balanced diet that includes all food groups and being physically active are important to your health. Try to make physical activity part of your daily routine. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Be active and spend less time on screens.
  • Walk more—to school, the mall, a friend’s house.
  • Use the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Walk the dog, rake the leaves, or shovel snow (your parents will thank you).
  • Do activities you enjoy: skating, swimming, biking, running. etc.
  • Follow the Canada Food Guide.

If you are worried about your weight, or want advice on healthy living, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can suggest a healthy eating and exercise program for you to follow.

What else should I do?

  • Puberty can cause you to have lots of different feelings and emotions. Talk to people you trust, including your parents who have been through this before. This can help you cope with the changes you are experiencing.
  • Stay away from alcohol, drugs and tobacco. All of these can harm your body and are addictive.
  • Talk to someone you trust about healthy relationships and attractions.
  • Use social media safely.

More information from the CPS

  • Growing up: Information for boys about puberty
  • Dieting information for teens
  • Physical activity for children and youth
  • Teens and sleep: Why you need it and how to get enough
  • Your teen’s sexual orientation

Additional resources

  • sexandu.ca (The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada)
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