Teenagers. Adolescents. Adolescence. Puberty. These terms are often used interchangeably, and are often related to each other, but there are important differences. Teenagers and adolescents refer to the same span in years of age. However, adolescence is the time that youth engage in the developmental tasks of adolescence. These tasks include establishing an adult identity, seeking independence from adults, establishing economic self-sufficiency; these tasks may begin before the teen years, and in males typically not completed until the late teens or early twenties.
Puberty includes the biologic changes that adolescents encounter, which include the adolescent growth spurt. There are many other changes associated with puberty, which we will discuss in detail below.
An adolescent may expect to grow several inches in several months followed by a period of very slow growth, then will typically 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 maturation sooner or later than others. It is important to remember that these changes happen at different times for everyone, and males typically begin puberty after females. Being smaller or bigger than other males is normal as each child experiences puberty.
On average males begin puberty between 9 to 11 years of age.
Changes During Puberty
In males, it is difficult to know exactly when puberty is coming. There are changes that occur, but they occur gradually over a period of time rather than as a single event. These changes occur during puberty:
- First pubertal change: enlargement of the testicles
- Appearance of pubic hair and penis enlargement: begins approximately six months after the testicles begin to enlarge
- Hair under the arms, on the face, voice change, and acne
- Ability to obtain orgasm, typically experienced as a wet dream
The following are additional changes that may occur for the male as he experiences the changes of puberty:
- Body size will increase, with the feet, arms, legs, and hands sometimes growing before the rest of the body. This may cause the adolescent boy to experience a time of feeling clumsy.
- Some may experience some swelling in the area of their breasts as a result of the hormonal changes that are occurring. This is common among teenage boys and is usually a temporary condition, lasting less than eighteen months in the majority. Consult with your adolescent's physician if this is a concern.
- Voice changes may occur, as the voice gets deeper. Sometimes, the voice may "crack" during this time. This is a temporary condition and will improve over time.
- Not only will hair begin to grow in the genital area, but males will also experience hair growth on their face, under their arms, and on their legs.
- As the hormones of puberty increase, adolescents may experience an increase in oily skin and sweating. This is a normal part of growing. Acne as well as body odor may develop as a result of the change in hormones. It is important to wash daily, including the face.
- As the penis enlarges, the adolescent male may begin to experience erections. This is when the penis becomes hard and erect because it is filled with blood. This is due to hormonal changes and may occur when the boy fantasizes about sexual things or for no reason at all. This is a normal occurrence.
- During puberty, the male's body also begins producing sperm. Semen, which is composed of sperm and other bodily fluids, may be released during an erection. This is called ejaculation. Sometimes, this may happen while the male is sleeping. This is called a nocturnal emission or "wet dream." This is a normal part of puberty and will stop as the male gets older.
Normal Adolescent Cognitive and Social Development
The adolescent years bring many changes, not only physically, but also mentally and socially. During these years, adolescents 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
Some adolescents may experience signs of maturity sooner or later than others. It is important to remember that these changes happen at different times for everyone.
Relationships With Others
In order to achieve independence and control of one's environment, many changes may need to occur. The following are some of the issues that may be involved with your adolescent during these years:
- Independence from parents
- Peer influence and acceptance is very important
- Romantic relationships become very important
- He may have long-term commitment in relationship