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There can be a wide range in the age at which children enter puberty. The mean average for girls to start puberty is between 9 and 11 years old. For boys it’s between ages 11 and 13. However, anything between the ages of 7 and 15 for girls, and 9 and 14 for boys, could be considered within the typical range of the human spectrum.

Differences between boys & girls & when they start puberty

Girls typically reach puberty much sooner than boys – absent other factors, the onset of puberty in males lags about a year and a half behind girls, and girls typically attain full sexual maturity 6 months to a year earlier than boys on average. (Van De Graaff, 2000) This gap between boys and girls has continued to widen in recent years.

There are two reasons for this gender difference. First, girls have always matured a bit faster than boys. During childhood they’re typically around a year or so ahead of boys in emotional maturity, and they experience an earlier growth spurt, so they’ve always entered puberty sooner. Second, the cultural and environmental factors pushing down the age when children start puberty (obesity, chemical exposures, etc.) affect girls more than boys, which has been widening this gender gap even further.

Factors that determine when children start puberty

The onset of puberty is partly determined by genetics: if you yourself entered puberty earlier or later than others, there’s a good chance your child will follow a similar trajectory. The age when children begin puberty can also be determined by a child’s lifestyle: Kids who are physically active tend to enter puberty at later ages. This is especially true of girls, since body weight is the predominant factor that triggers the onset of puberty. This means overweight girls are likely to enter puberty much sooner. Exposure to chemicals – either prenatally or during childhood – can push the start of puberty down for girls and delay it in boys, since the chemical compounds of the most widely used chemicals mimic the female hormone estrogen.

When is the age at which children enter puberty a cause for concern?
If a girl begins puberty at age 7 or younger, or a boy begins puberty at age 9 or younger, it’s a good idea to schedule a well-child checkup with their pediatrician just to make sure there’s nothing else going on with them, medically speaking. And if a boy or girl still isn’t showing signs of puberty by age 14 or 15, you should do the same. This does not mean there’s anything wrong or that your child is abnormal, but is merely a precautionary measure.

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