The period when boys and girls begin to mature is called puberty, and the child who is maturing is called an adolescent. Puberty is one of the most difficult and trying times for children. Physical growth often occurs more rapidly than the growth and development of the mind. As a result, the child may appear to be confused and disturbed by what is taking place. This disturbance may cause his or her behavior to undergo great changes, and parents and their adolescent children sometimes find it extremely difficult to get along together. A pleasant girl may become excitable and rebellious when she reaches I adolescence. A boy who always was full of fun and laughter might become quiet and unhappy a great deal of the time. This, after all, is when he must begin to think seriously about the future.
Fortunately, the personality changes that take place during puberty are not permanent. As soon as most boys and girls get adjusted to the physical growth that has occurred, they return to their usual disposition. Once in a while, though, children do have an unusually tough time during puberty. They act nervous and cry a lot; they may get along badly with their parents and brothers and sisters; they may not want to be with their friends; and they may be generally unhappy. [f this happens, it is often a good idea for them to have a chat with the family doctor. He will usually be able to straighten out the problem without too much difficulty.
The Maturing Boy
When a boy reaches about thirteen years of age, great changes begin to take place within his body. His pituitary gland and his testicles start to manufacture large amounts of hormones because these hormones are supplied directly to the bloodstream, they influence practically every organ in the body. The most obvious change is a tremendous spurt in the boy’s growth. A boy of thirteen or fourteen may grow as much as three to five inches in just one year!
As we can see from the Chart, the fully matured man may reach almost six feet tall. Of course, in some countries like Asia and parts of the Orient, men tend to be somewhat shorter in height. How tall we grow depends a great deal on Inheritance, and b9ys with tall fathers have a tendency to grow to be tall when they mature. However, a boy with a short father may grow to be tall if his mother happens to be a tall woman. Also, people are a lot healthier today than they were generations ago, and healthy children get to be taller than those who are sick a lot.
The age at which puberty begins may vary greatly from child to child. Some boys start to mature at eleven years of age, while others might not really begin to grow until they are fifteen or even sixteen years old. No one really understands why adolescence is late in some boys and early in others, but we do know that children tend to follow their parents in this respect. Thus, if a boy’s father developed early when he was young, it is more likely that his son will, too. However, if the boy happens to take after his mother, and his mother was a late developer, it is possible that he will have a late onset of adolescence, too.
Boys who begin to grow late often have an especially difficult time. They may have been one of the tallest boys in their class, and suddenly, they discover that shorter kids are beginning to outgrow them. They may begin to worry and feel depressed because they no longer can compete as successfully with classmates of their own age. This can sometimes be a sad situation. In some families, brothers may begin to mature at entirely different rates. As a result, a younger brother may pass an older brother in height and in other signs of maturity. As you can imagine, this can make an older brother feel pretty bad. But the important thing to remember is that all kids eventually grow up, even if they start late. And a good number of the late developers outgrow the early starters. For some unexplained reason, children who live in the tropics tend to develop earlier than those who live in
cooler climates. It is not at all unusual to find boys in certain parts of Africa and Asia who are fully grown by the time they are twelve years old.
Puberty can sometimes be a pretty rough period for a boy because his body often grows more rapidly than his mind. As a result, he sometimes behaves strangely.
Adolescence shows itself not only by an increase in height and weight but by enlargement of the male organs and the appearance of hair on the face, under the arms, and around the male organs. Muscles in the arms and legs get bigger and stronger, the shoulders broaden, and the speaking voice deepens. Sometimes, the larynx (or voice box) grows so rapidly that the voice “cracks.” This means that some of the boy’s speaking is high-pitched, as in a child, and same of it is deep, as in an adult. Occasionally, a boy who sang in a choir finds he can no longer sing at all. Fortunately, voice changes are complete within a few months or at most a year, and the voice levels out and sounds like that of a grown-up.
Girls usually mature earlier than boys, and boys are frequently embarrassed when their girl friends are taller than they are. Luckily. it doesn’t take them too long to catch up.
Some adolescent changes are seen in some boys, but not others. For example, some boys develop pimples and blackheads, especially on the face, shoulders, and back. This condition is thought to be caused by increased amounts of male hormone that are circulating in the blood. The pimples will eventually go away, but it is important that the boy not squeeze or pick at them. The more a boy picks or squeezes pimples, the more pimples he will get.
Once in a while, a boy will develop a little lump beneath one or both nipples. The lump may be a bit tender. This condition is also thought to be due to increased secretion of male hormone. Nothing need be done about these lumps; they will disappear by themselves in a few months.
During adolescence there is usually an increase in appetite, because extra nourishment is needed to supply the rapidly growing muscles and bones. But an adolescent may not know how to control this increased desire for food and, as a result, he may gain too much weight. Frequently, parents will become concerned that their son’s overweight is due to an upset in the way his glands are working. This is seldom true. Most fat adolescent boys just eat too much, and require no more than a good reducing diet.
Adolescence takes place over a few years, but within a year or two after its onset, a boy has matured sufficiently so that he is physically able to have children of his own. Of course, in America, boys don’t marry and have children at fifteen or sixteen years of age. But they could, and in certain parts of the world today, boys of fifteen and sixteen are becoming fathers. By the time most boys reach nineteen years of age, they are fully grown. Some, however, may grow another inch or two between the ages of nineteen and twenty-one. Very little increase in height takes place after twenty-one years of age.