puberty (pyōō´bərtē), period during which the onset of sexual maturity occurs. It usually takes place between the ages of 10 and 15 in both sexes but sometimes occurs as early as 7 or 8 years of age in females. The pituitary gland secretes hormones that stimulate enlargement and development of the sex organs, which thus become capable of reproduction. The appearance of secondary sex characteristics also occurs during puberty. In females the reproductive cycle of ovulation and menstruation begins, pubic hair appears, and development of the breasts and other body contours takes place. Physical changes in males include production and discharge of semen, appearance of facial and body hair, and deepening of the voice. Skin difficulties, such as acne, may affect both sexes. Puberty, a transition period coinciding with adolescence, involves both physiological and psychological adjustments. It is often marked by emotional stress arising as the adolescent relinquishes childhood behavior patterns and adopts those of an adult.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2016, The Columbia University Press.

Puberty: Selected full-text books and articles

Gender Differences at Puberty By Chris Hayward Cambridge University Press, 2003
Development during the Transition to Adolescence By Megan R. Gunnar; W. Andrew Collins Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Hormones and Behavior at Puberty: Activation or Concatenation" and Chap. 3 "Adapting to Menarche: Familiar Control and Conflict"
Biological-Psychosocial Interactions in Early Adolescence By Richard M. Lerner; Terryl T. Foch Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Pubertal Processes and Girls' Psychological Adaptation" and Chap. 8 "Pubertal Status and Psychosocial Development: Findings from the Early Adolescence Study"
Evolutionary Principles of Human Adolescence By Glenn E. Weisfeld Basic Books, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Puberty Rites," Chap. 9 "Pubertal Changes in Boys," and Chap. 10 "Pubertal Changes in Girls"
Girls: Feminine Adolescence in Popular Culture and Cultural Theory By Catherine Driscoll Columbia University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Three "Puberty"
Adolescent Sleep Patterns: Biological, Social, and Psychological Influences By Mary A. Carskadon Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Endocrine Changes Associated with Puberty and Adolescence"
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