Pubertal Development: Correspondence Between Hormonal and Physical Development


  • This project was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health to Elizabeth Shirtcliff (K01 MH077687), Ronald Dahl (R24 MH67346), and Seth Pollak (R01 MH61285, R01 MH068858). Infrastructure support was provided by P30-HD03352 (M. Seltzer, Center Director). Special thanks are due to the Pediatric Nurse Practitioners for their diligence and commitment to this research project: Marie Heilegenstein, R.N.; Lois Hoornstra, R.N.; and Kim Squires, R.N. We appreciate the research assistance of Patrick Bauer, Aaron Cohn, Johnna Dorshorst, Jamie Hanson, Chastity Jensen, and Abby Noack. Invaluable guidance was provided by Lorah D. Dorn and Elizabeth J. Susman throughout the study, including the use of the script for the interview measure. Finally, we thank the adolescents and their families who made this research possible.

concerning this article should be addressed to Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, Department of Psychology, University of New Orleans, 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70148. Electronic mail may be sent to


Puberty is advanced by sex hormones, yet it is not clear how it is best measured. The interrelation of multiple indices of puberty was examined, including the Pubertal Development Scale (PDS), a picture-based interview about puberty (PBIP), and a physical exam. These physical pubertal measures were then associated with basal hormones responsible for advancing puberty. Participants included 160 early adolescents (82 boys). Puberty indices were highly correlated with each other. The physical exam stages correlated well with boys’ and girls’ testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone and less so with girls’ estradiol. The PDS and PBIP were similarly related to basal hormones. Self-report may be adequate when precise agreement is unnecessary. Multiple measures of puberty are viable options, each with respective strengths.