Girls begin to grow and mature about a year or two earlier than boys. This means that they will start to show changes at about eleven or twelve years of age. And, as with boys, girls who live in tropical climates tend to start a year or two earlier than those who live in cooler climates. In some parts of Africa, females develop so completely by the time they are eleven years old that they are able to have children themselves. The reason for this early adolescence among tropical peoples is not known.
We have mentioned that puberty is stimulated by the increased amounts of hormones that circulate in the blood. In girls, these hormones come from the pituitary gland and from the ovaries.
The first sign that a girl is beginning to mature is enlargement of the nipples and an increase in breast tissue beneath the nipples. This can start as early as ten or eleven years of age among females in most countries. During the following year, hair begins to grow under the arms and above and around the female organs. Then, at about twelve years of age, a girl’s body begins to change shape so that she takes on the appearance of an adult female. Her waist seems to become narrower and her hips and buttocks enlarge. All this time, the breasts continue to grow and take on an adult appearance.
Some two years after a girl first notices breast growth, or when she gets to be about thirteen to fourteen years old, she will begin to menstruate.
Menstruation is the discharge of a small amount of blood from the vagina each month that pregnancy fails to take place. Once a girl has begun to menstruate regularly, it means that her body has matured sufficiently to allow for pregnancy. Of course, as we know, girls of thirteen or fourteen in our country don’t marry and have children. But Nature prepares a girl’s body very early in life so that she is ready to become a mother by the time she finishes adolescence and is fully grown.
The rate at which normal girls begin to mature varies widely. Some may start to menstruate as early as ten to eleven years of age, while others don’t begin until they are sixteen years old. Girls tend to take after their mothers in this regard. If a girl’s mother matured early, her daughter is likely to do the same thing. Once in a while, however, a girl takes after her father’s side of the family. Thus, if the father comes from a family where the females mature late, his daughter might mature late, too.
A girl can be pretty unhappy if most of her friends have developed sooner than she has. But she shouldn’t be too discouraged because, sooner or later, every girl changes into a woman. And it has been found that girls who develop exceptionally early may not grow as tall as those who start their adolescent at a later age.
Since most girls start to mature at eleven to twelve years of age, a time is reached when they get to be taller and heavier than boys their own age. For example, the average girl of thirteen weighs about 110 pounds and is 5 feet 3 inches tall; the average boy of thirteen weighs only 106 pounds and is only 5 feet 2 inches tall. However, by the time they are fifteen years old, the average boy has caught up and has passed the girl both in height and in weight. The average boy of fifteen is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds, whereas the average girl of fifteen is only 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs only 124 pounds.
Girls don’t seem to worry nearly as much as boys about how tall they will grow. They know that there are plenty of short men who like short girls, and plenty of tall men who like tall girls. Besides, height is not nearly as important as intelligence and charm and good looks, These are the things that girls, and boys too, can develop whether they are tall or short.
As we know, mental and emotional development are very important parts of the adolescent period, and girls undergo extremely rapid changes in their attitudes as they mature. A girl first becomes conscious of approaching womanhood when her breasts begin to mature and she has her first few menstrual periods. No longer does she consider herself to be a little girl. Her interests begin to change; she becomes more interested in boys; she wants to dress more attractively; she drops many of her tomboy habits; she wants to wear a brassiere and to use makeup; she gets more curious about sexual matters.
These are natural changes hut they often cause personality difficulties because they happen so quickly. It is not easy to change from a girl to a young lady within a few months or even a year! As a result, adolescent girls often become moody, anger easily, I cry easily, and are especially hard to live with. Also, they are frequently very irritable and tense for a few days before the onset of a menstrual period.
Young girls seem to mature into young women within a short period of time.
Fortunately, the great majority of girls don’t have too much trouble in adjusting to changes as they mature. They will have unhappy times, but they manage to overcome them. But once in a while, a girl stays upset for long periods. If this happens, she should not keep her unhappiness to herself. She should tell her parents about it because they can often help her to understand her problem. If the parents can’t remedy the situation, it is a good idea for the girl to have a chat with the family doctor. He has handled hundreds of girls with similar problems, and he will know what to do to relieve the situation.
For reasons that are hard to explain, some adolescent girls are embarrassed by their development They seem to be ashamed of their breasts, and they try to hide the fact they are getting to be interested in boys. This is silly. A girl should be proud of the fact that she is developing into a woman.
Some girls, like boys, get blackheads and pimples during adolescence. And just like boys, some girls gain too much weight during adolescence. They, too, must not pick or squeeze pimples. And like boys who are fat, they, too, should watch their diet.
Once in a while, the uterus and ovaries of an adolescent girl have trouble in maturing. In such cases, menstruation may be quite irregular and instead of occurring every month, it may come every couple of weeks, or it may not appear for several months in a row. And some girls may have considerable pain with their menstrual periods. These menstrual troubles are sometimes due to the way the pituitary gland and the ovaries secrete their hormones. But most upsets in these glands straighten out by themselves. If they don’t, the girl should be taken to a doctor who specializes in treating these conditions. In most cases, treatment will remedy the condition within a few months.