Changes during Puberty


This topic gives an overview of; 

  • Adolescence and Puberty
  • Increase in Height
  • Change in Body Shape
  • Voice Change
  • Intellectual and Emotional Maturity

Changes During Puberty

You have learnt how animals reproduce. It is only after ‘growing up’ to a certain age that human beings and many other animals can reproduce. Why can humans reproduce only after a certain age? In this topic,  you will learn about changes that take place in the human body after which a person becomes capable of reproduction.

Earlier, you have learnt about human reproductive organs. Here, we shall discuss the role that hormones play in bringing about changes that make a child grow into an adult.

Adolescence and Puberty

Boojho was celebrating his 12th birthday. After his friends left, Boojho and Paheli began chatting with their parents. Paheli studies in an all-girls school. She started laughing. She remarked that many of Boojho’s school friends, whom she met after a year, had suddenly shot up in height. Some of them were looking very funny with a hairy line above their lips. Her mother explained that the boys had grown up.

Growth begins from the day one is born. But upon crossing the age of 10 or 11, there is a sudden spurt in growth which becomes noticeable. The changes taking place in the body are part of growing up. They indicate that you are no longer a child but are on the way to becoming an adult.

Growing up is a natural process. The period of life, when the body undergoes changes, leading to reproductive maturity, is called adolescence. Adolescence begins around the age of 11 and lasts upto 18 or 19 years of age. Since this period covers the ‘teens’ (13 to 18 or 19 years of age), adolescents are also called ‘teenagers’. In girls,adolescence may begin a year or two earlier than in boys. Also, the period of adolescence varies from person to person.

The human body undergoes several changes during adolescence. These changes mark the onset of puberty. The most important change which marks puberty is that boys and girls become capable of reproduction. Puberty ends when an adolescent reaches reproductive maturity.

Increase in Height

The most conspicuous change during puberty is the sudden increase in height. At this time the long bones, that is, the bones of the arms and the legs elongate and make a person tall.

The following chart gives the average rate of growth in height of boys and girls with age. The figures in columns 2 and 3, give the percentage of the height a person has reached at the age given in column 1. For example, by the age 11, a boy has reached 81% of his probable full height, while a girl has reached 88% of her full height. These figures are only representative and there may be individual variations.

Use the Table for your friends and work out how tall they are likely to be. Find out who is likely to be the tallest and who might be the shortest in your class.

Age in Years % of full height
Boys Girls
8 72 77
9 75 81
10 78 84
11 81 88
12 84 91
13 88 95
14 92 98
15 95 99
16 98 99.5
17 99 100
18 100 100

Calculation for full height

Present height (cm) / Percentage of full height X 100


A boy is 9 years old and 120 cm tall. At the end of the growth period he is likely to be (120 /75) X100 cm = 160 cm tall

Change in Body Shape

Have you noticed that boys in your class have broader shoulders and wider chests than boys in junior classes? This is because they have entered the age of puberty when shoulders generally broaden as a result of growth. In girls, the region below the waist becomes wider.

In boys, the muscles of the body grow more prominently than in the girls. Thus, changes occurring in adolescent boys and girls are different.

Voice Change

At puberty, the voice box or the larynx begins to grow. Boys develop larger voice boxes. The growing voice box in boys can be seen as a protruding part of the throat called Adam’s apple. In girls, the larynx is hardly visible from the outside because of its small size. Generally, girls have a high pitched voice, whereas boys have a deep voice. In adolescent boys, sometimes, the muscles of the growing voice box go out of control and the voice becomes hoarse. This state may remain for a few days or weeks after which the voice becomes normal.

Increased Activity of Sweat and Sebaceous Glands

During puberty the secretion of sweat glands and sebaceous glands (oil glands) increases. Many young people get acne and pimples on the face at this time because of the increased activity of these glands in the skin.

Development of Sex Organs

At puberty, male sex organs like the testes and penis develop completely. The testes also begin to produce sperms. In girls, the ovaries enlarge and eggs begin to mature. Also ovaries start releasing mature eggs.

Reaching Mental, Intellectual and Emotional Maturity

Adolescence is also a period of change in a person’s way of thinking. Adolescents are more independent than before and are also self conscious. Intellectual development takes place and they tend to spend considerable time thinking. In fact, it is often the time in one’s life when the brain has the greatest capacity for learning. Sometimes, however, an adolescent may feel insecure while trying to adjust to the changes in the body and mind. But as adolescent learners, you should know that there is no reason to feel insecure. These changes are a natural part of growing up.

Secondary Sexual Characters

Testes and ovaries are the reproductive organs. They produce the gametes, that is, sperms and ova. In girls, breasts begin to develop at puberty and boys begin to grow facial hair, that is, moustaches and beard. As these features help to distinguish the male from the female they are called secondary sexual characters. Boys also develop hair on their chest. In both, boys and girls, hair grows under the arms and in the region above the thighs or the pubic region.

The changes which occur at adolescence are controlled by hormones. Hormones are chemical substances. These are secretions from endocrine glands, or endocrine system.The male hormone or testosterone begins to be released by the testes at the onset of puberty. This causes changes in boys about which you have just learnt, for example, the growth of facial hair. Once puberty is reached in girls, ovaries begin to produce the female hormone or estrogen which makes the breasts develop. Milk secreting glands or mammary glands develop inside the breasts. The production of these hormones is under the control of another hormone secreted from an endocrine gland called pituitary gland.


  • Humans become capable of reproduction after puberty sets in. Between the ages of 11 years and 19 years children are called adolescents.
  • The onset of puberty brings about growth of the reproductive organs.
  • Hair grow at various places on the body. Breasts develop in girls and facial hair (moustache and beard) appear in boys. Voice of boys becomes hoarse as voice box enlarges during adolescence.
  • Children gain height during adolescence.
  •  The onset of puberty and maturity of reproductive parts are controlled by hormones.


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