Tests & Procedures Index



Puberty: Adolescent Female

Picture of adolescent female, smiling

How much will my adolescent grow?

The teenage years are also called adolescence. During this time, the teenager will see the greatest amount of growth in height and weight. Adolescence is a time for growth spurts and puberty changes. An adolescent may grow several inches in several months followed by a period of very slow growth, then have another growth spurt. Changes with puberty may occur gradually or several signs may become visible at the same time.

There is a great amount of variation in the rate of changes that may occur. Some adolescents may experience these signs of maturity sooner or later than others. It is important to remember that these changes happen at different times for everyone. Being smaller or bigger than other girls is normal as each child experiences puberty at her own time. 

What changes will occur during puberty?

Sexual and other physical maturation that occurs during puberty results from hormonal changes.

Girls experience puberty as a sequence of events, but their pubertal changes usually begin before boys of the same age. Each girl is different and may progress through these changes differently. 

There are specific stages of development that girls go through when developing secondary sexual characteristics. The following is a brief overview of the changes that occur:

  • In girls, the initial puberty change is the development of breast buds, in which a small mound is formed by the elevation of the breast and papilla (nipple). The areola (the circle of different colored skin around the nipple) increases in size at this time.
  • The breasts then continue to enlarge.
  • Eventually, the nipples and the areolas will elevate again, forming another projection on the breasts.
  • The initial growth of pubic hair produces long, soft hair that is only in a small area around the genitals. This hair then becomes darker and coarser as it continues to spread.
  • The pubic hair eventually looks like adult hair, but in a smaller area. It may spread to the thighs and sometimes up the stomach.

The following are additional changes that may occur for the female as she experiences the changes of puberty:

  • There may be an increase in hair growth, not only in the pubic area, but also under the arms and on the legs. Many women may decide to shave this hair.
  • The female's body shape will also begin to change. There may be not only an increase in height and weight, but the hips may get wider. There may also be an increase in fat in the buttocks, legs, and stomach. These are normal changes that may occur during puberty.
  • Her body size will increase, with the feet, arms, legs, and hands beginning to grow in advance of the body. This may cause the adolescent girl to experience a time of feeling clumsy.
  • As the hormones of puberty increase, adolescents may experience an increase in oily skin and sweating. This is a normal part of growing. It is important to wash daily, including the face. Acne may develop.
  • Adolescent girls will also experience menstruation, or menstrual periods. This begins when the body releases an egg from the ovaries. If the egg is fertilized with a sperm from a male, it will grow into a baby inside the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, the endometrial lining of the uterus is not needed and is shed through the vagina as fluid. The fluids are bloody and are usually released monthly.

What does my teenager understand?

The teenage years bring many changes, not only physically, but also mentally and socially. Children in these years increase their ability to think abstractly and eventually make plans and set long-term goals. Each child may progress at different rates, and show a different view of the world. In general, the following are some of the abilities that may be evident in your teenager:

  • Developing the ability to think abstractly
  • Concerns with philosophy, politics, and social issues
  • Thinking long-term
  • Setting goals
  • Comparing oneself to one's peers

Your adolescent's relationships with others

As your adolescent begins to struggle for independence and control, many changes may occur. The following are some of the issues that may be involved with your adolescent during these years:

  • She wants independence from parents.
  • Peer influence and acceptance is very important.
  • Peer relationships become very important.
  • She may be in love.
  • She may have long-term commitment in relationships.

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Last reviewed: 12/29/2012