Puberty is when a child's body begins to develop and change as they become an adult.
Signs of puberty include girls developing breasts and starting periods, and boys developing a larger penis and testicles, a deeper voice and a more muscular appearance.
The average age for girls to start puberty is 11, while for boys the average age is 12.
But it's perfectly normal for puberty to begin at any point between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls and 9 and 14 in boys.
There's not usually any need to worry if puberty does not start around the average age, but it's a good idea to speak to your GP for advice if it starts before 8 or has not started by around 14.
In some cases, early puberty or delayed puberty could be a sign of an underlying condition that may need to be treated.
Common questions children may have are answered below
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
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.
Changes that can happen to female bodies include:
- Having periods
- Producing vaginal discharge
- Developing breasts
- Growing wider hips
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.