According to testicular measurement, boys are maturing earlier than expected.
There have been many studies conducted which have shown that
girls are going through puberty at younger and younger ages, but boys are also
maturing earlier than was previously thought, according to Slate.com. A
particular form of measurement is yielding far more accurate results in the
case of boys:
Previously, the onset of puberty in boys was measured by
many factors, including changes in penis size (genital development),
development of pubic hair and the increase in size of the testicles, determined
visually. A new form of measuring testes development is much more accurate than
visual determination, however, and the results have shown that boys are
maturing at a younger age, including: first signs appearing at age 9.14 for
African-American boys, 10.04 for Hispanic boys, and 10.14 for non-Hispanic
Slate reports: “An orchidometer, also known as Prader beads,
is a string of ovoid plastic or wooden beads ranging from 1 millilitre to 25 or
30 milliliters in volume. Pre-pubertal boys typically have a testicular volume
of 1 to 2 milliliters; boys in the early stage of puberty have a testicular
volume of 3 to 4 milliliters. (Adult men usually have a testicular volume
between 15 and 25 milliliters.) To use an orchidometer, doctors gently pull the
testicle to the bottom of a boy’s scrotum and use touch and sight to find the
bead that matches it in volume.”
Formerly, visual measurement of, for example, pubic hair
development was affected by subjectivity across population groups. Despite the
study giving accurate findings, it’s hard to say whether boys are actually
hitting puberty younger, as previous studies relied on different information-
the Tanner Stages of monitoring puberty are based on studies conducted by Dr.
James Tanner, a scientist who monitored the development of a sample of 228
orphan boys living in institutions in the 60s.
Despite different methods of measuring the onset of puberty,
most doctors acknowledge that the age of puberty is dropping. A German study
found that, in girls, “in 1860, the
average age of the onset of puberty in girls was 16.6 years. In 1920, it was
14.6; in 1950, 13.1; 1980, 12.5; and in 2010, it had dropped to 10.5. Similar
sets of figures have been reported for boys, albeit with a delay of around a
year”. (The Guardian).
What does this mean for parents?
Well, if boys are going through puberty at a younger age,
parents can prepare for this by helping their children to adapt to physical
changes by discussing them with their sons earlier, as well as by being
prepared for the associated changes in temperament which come with hormonal
adaptations. Many parents fret that their kids will miss out on years of innocence
if they undergo what is termed ‘precocious puberty’.
Puberty is not necessarily related to sexual development,
though, so while physically mature, a boy may still be emotionally immature,
and parents should be sensitive to this when sharing sex-ed information.
Are you concerned that your child may be going through early