Puberty questions asked by early adolescents: What do they want to know?

Sheryl A. Ryan, Susan G. Millstein, Charles E. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: We undertook the following study to document questions asked by early adolescents regarding pubertal development. Methods: As part of a health education program, 159 sixth-grade students (mean = 12.1 years) were surveyed to obtain their questions about puberty and their self-assessed pubertal stage. Questions were coded for content and gender specificity. Results: Of 159 initial subjects, 111 generated a total of 200 questions. A majority of the questions reflected biological topics (88%), such as genital physiology (26%) and sexuality and reproduction (26%). Only 6% addressed psychosocial questions. Both females and Asians (compared with other ethnic or racial groups) expressed greater interest in the differences between male and female development (P < .05). Prepubertal males were more concerned about general puberty than were boys in later Tanner stages (P < .05). Earlier maturing males focused on genital anatomy (P < .05). Conclusions: We found that biological questions concerning puberty predominated over psychosocial topics, and that the gender, race or ethnicity, and stage of development determined the kinds of questions that early adolescents have about pubertal development. Health educators and clinicians may need to focus on physiologic areas to provide more meaningful information about development to early adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-152
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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