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Early Puberty: Signs, Causes, Effects, and Treatment

By Dr. Christina Neeley, Coastal Pediatrics

Puberty usually begins when the brain signals the pituitary gland to release hormones that create sex hormones in boys and girls.

The process typically begins around age 10 for girls and age 11 for boys, but some kids start puberty at an earlier age.

Precocious or early puberty can make the signs of puberty begin earlier than 7 or 8 years old in girls and earlier than 9 years old in boys.

The physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty make it a complicated time for kids. When these changes begin at an even earlier age, there are several things that parents should know to keep children physically and mentally healthy.

Symptoms and Causes of Precocious Puberty

In girls, breast development before 7 or 8 years old, starting her period before age 10, or a growth spurt before 7 or 8 years old are all signs of early puberty.

Enlargement of the testicles or penis and a growth spurt before age 9 are signs of precocious puberty in boys.

These signs can also signal early puberty in both boys and girls, but can also be normal:

  • Pubic, underarm, or facial hair development.
  • Voice deepening.
  • Acne.
  • Body odor.

Precocious puberty is most often caused by the brain sending signals earlier than it should. It can also be hereditary.

It is not often that early puberty is caused by a more serious problem.

Effects of Early Puberty on Kids

Children with precocious puberty usually don’t grow as tall as they could have since they mature at an earlier age.

Emotionally and socially, early puberty can cause feelings of isolation or embarrassment due to looking and feeling older than their peers.

The emotions and behavior of kids going through precocious puberty may also be affected. Girls can become moody and irritable, while boys can become more aggressive and develop a sex drive earlier than they should.


Precocious puberty can be diagnosed and treated by your child’s pediatrician. Treatment options depend on the cause, but the goal is to stop or reverse sexual development and stop the rapid growth and maturation. By treating early puberty, your child’s emotional well-being and behavior will also benefit.

If you suspect your child is going through early puberty, contact your pediatrician.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.