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Testicle testing

 
According to testicular measurement, boys are maturing earlier than expected.
tennis balls
By Scott Dunlop

Pic: Shutterstock

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:

Testing testes

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 white boys.

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 puberty?

 
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