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  1. Elizabeth J. Susman1,
  2. Sonya Negriff2,
  3. Lorah D. Dorn2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0760

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Susman, E. J., Negriff, S. and Dorn, L. D. 2010. Puberty. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Pennsylvania State University

  2. 2

    Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Puberty is the period of development when sexual, reproductive maturity is reached. The span of puberty covers the approximate ages of 9–15 in girls and 10–16 in boys. Why is this predictable, biological event surrounded by so much psychological turmoil for some adolescents? The significance of puberty as a psychological event for adolescents is that it entails major neuroendocrine and structural brain changes as well as a period of growth that is exceeded in rapidity only during infancy. These neuroendocrine and structural brain changes putatively alter cognition, emotions, and potentially social roles, yet all of these changes are essential for the healthy development of adolescents. Changes in the behavior of adolescents, in turn, affect the functioning of the family as adolescents and families develop within a close system of dynamic and coordinated relationships. Furthermore, pubertal-age adolescents and their families experience these major changes within a culture that continues to harbor the impression that puberty is synonymous with adolescence, a period negatively characterized as one in which there is risky sexuality, delinquency, and psychopathology. This section will discuss the neuroendocrine processes responsible for the onset and progression of puberty, the measurement of puberty, and the problem behaviors associated with off-time pubertal development.


  • development;
  • gender differences;
  • neuroendocrinology;
  • secondary sex characteristics