Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Duke Medicine: When is puberty too early?

Posted April 25, 2011 8:01 p.m. EDT

Parents increasingly wonder whether their child’s maturing to puberty is occurring at too early an age. Often, girls in fourth grade seem to be maturing, and their parents are not ready for it.

Deanna Adkins, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist with Duke Medicine, discusses the normal progression of puberty and explains warning signs that indicate puberty is happening too early.

As any parent who has been to his child’s classroom or sporting activity knows, kids come in all sizes.

These size differences get pronounced when puberty arrives in some of the children and not others.

One of the more noticeable things that occur is that girls shoot up past the boys around 11 or 12 years of age. Then the boys catch up and pass them by around 14 or so.

This is the usual pattern, but many children follow their own pattern that can be very different from this.

Early and late bloomers are considered different from the normal pattern of puberty, but these patterns occur frequently in adolescents and should be considered a variant of normal. Both tend to run in the family with both boys and girls going into puberty a little later or earlier than their peers.

As previously mentioned, the first signs of puberty are expected at very different times in boys and girls. There has been much study and discussion in the medical community about the early onset of puberty in and when it should be evaluated.

The focus has traditionally been on girls, but recently there has been some evidence and discussion surrounding this in boys as well.

When should a parent worry? Read the full post on with more information about signs of early puberty in girls and boys; causes of early puberty; risk factors; and treatments.