Usefulness and Reliability of Tanner Pubertal Self-Rating to Urban Black Adolescents in South Africa


Requests for reprints should be sent to Shane Norris, MRC Mineral Metabolism Research Unit, PO Box 784314, Sandton 2146, South Africa. E-mail:


Self-rating of pubertal development is the recommended method to assess puberty in large community-based surveys of adolescent development and behavior. The aim of this study was to validate for the first time pubertal self-assessment using the sexual maturation scale developed by Tanner among Black South African adolescents (n=182) aged between 10 and 18 years who were recruited and assessed at public schools in Soweto—Johannesburg. There was significant concordance between adolescents' and same sex health professional's assessment of pubic hair growth and breast development in females (κ coefficients .71 and .76, respectively; p<.0005), and pubic hair growth and genital development in males (κ coefficients .63 and .60, respectively; p<.0005). We conclude that the Tanner pubertal self-rating appears to be a reasonably valid instrument to use among black South African youth. The tool can be administered in school or other community-based settings with moderate confidence provided the procedure is thoroughly explained to the participant through the developed tutorial in the language of choice, and privacy and confidentiality are assured.