Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

Worried About Precocious Puberty? How to Talk to Your Pediatrician

Children start puberty at different ages based on many factors, including activity level, race, and genes. Precocious puberty can be a sign of a medical condition that calls for a doctor’s attention. Other times, precocious puberty has no apparent reason but can be slowed down with treatment. 

In this article, WebMD lets parents know what to look for and when to call the pediatrician about early puberty.

Recommended Related to Children

Top Children's Health and Parenting Stories of 2007: Readers' Choice

Children's cold drugs made the list. So did lead poisoning, smart babies, and brain foods for kids. Here is the full list of the top 10 most viewed children's health and parenting stories on WebMD for 2007. Kids and Crocs Shoes: Trendy or Risky? 10 Rules for Baby-Proofing Your Marriage 10 Ways to Raise a Spoiled Child Lead Poisoning and Kids The 5 Hardest Things About Being a Mom How to Raise a Smart Baby 1...

Read the Top Children's Health and Parenting Stories of 2007: Readers' Choice article > >

Early Puberty: How Young Is Too Young?

When a child has precocious puberty, she or he starts developing sexual characteristics early, before age 7 to 8, on average, for girls and age 9 for boys.

The exact age is a matter of debate. Some doctors have suggested lowering the official age of precocious puberty. Others say that doing so will lead to not identifying children who would benefit from treatment.

Further complicating matters are racial differences in how soon puberty starts. By the age of 8, 38% of African-American boys and 48% of African-American girls show some signs of puberty. By comparison, 28% of white boys and 14% of white girls have begun to develop by the same age. So far, it’s unclear what portion of this age difference is due to race. 

Parents concerned about their children’s development can compare their child’s age to how old they were when they started puberty. 

In the end, parents and pediatricians need to look at the child’s development and the many factors surrounding it to determine what defines  too early.

Intervene Early or Wait and See?

Parents who think their child has precocious puberty should see their pediatrician. Rarely, early puberty is the first sign of a serious medical condition like a tumor or neurological disorder. Treating the condition can put puberty on hold until the appropriate age. Often puberty simply starts early for no apparent medical reason. 

While it may be a relief to know precocious puberty is not usually a sign of a more serious medical condition, kids with precocious puberty may stop growing before they reach their full adult height. They also face possible teasing by other kids.

Bones matures during puberty, and when puberty starts early, the growth spurt begins and ends sooner than normal. At first, children with precocious puberty tower over their friends who haven’t started to grow. But within a few years, they may stand among the shortest in their class. Diagnosing the condition early can help the child’s growth return to the appropriate pre-precocious rate.

What Precocious Puberty Looks Like

Early puberty looks like “normal” puberty, except it starts at a younger age. The signs include breast development, penis and/or testicle growth, rapid jumps in height, pubic or underarm hair, and acne. Suddenly a teenager’s body odor may fill the air. All familiar signs, except for the timing. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

preschool age girl sitting at desk
Article
look at my hand
Slideshow
 
woman with cleaning products
Slideshow
young boy with fever
Article
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

WebMD Special Sections