Mood swings, aloofness, and being secretive — these are all common issues parents face when their kids hit puberty, which happens at around the age of eight to 13 in girls and nine to 14 in boys. But did you know that some children will reach this stage early? Ahead, we have taken a closer look at early puberty in boys.
Early Puberty in Boys: How Parents Can Spot the Signs
More and more kids are being diagnosed with early (or precocious) puberty in Singapore.
What causes early puberty in boys? According to Mayo Clinic, it begins in the brain, specifically where gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) is produced.
This stimulates the pituitary glands to release luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Once this happens, sex hormones give rise to physical changes characteristic to puberty. This period preceding actual puberty in boys is known as adrenarche.
When it comes to early puberty in boys, a study found that hormones affect behaviour and moods. | Image courtesy: Shutterstock
With Early Puberty in Boys, These Symptoms May Be Present Before the Age of 9:
- testicles or penis enlargement
- development of pubic, underarm, or facial hair
- growth spurt, or rapid advancement in height
- short stature when bones mature too quickly
- deepening of the voice
- acne breakout
- body odour, like that of teenage to adult men
- moodiness and behavioural changes
Doctors usually diagnose precocious puberty through physical exam, blood hormone tests, and by reviewing a child’s medical history. If needed, an MRI or thyroid test can also be done to measure brain activity and thyroid function, respectively.
The two main complications of early puberty in boys are short stature and socio-emotional problems.
It turns out that the behavioural changes can be linked to hormone levels, as study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health has found.
By observing 1,200 primary school students, researchers noted those with higher levels of adrenal androgens, like testosterone, also showed more behavioural and emotional problems.
Though these findings shed more light on the effects of early puberty in boys, more research is needed to find out why these hormones affect boys more than girls.
How Can Parents Help When It Comes to Early Puberty in Boys?
These findings should help empower parents to better educate and raise boys who go into puberty earlier. Researchers believe that this offers parents a “second chance” to help children through a confusing time and to better equip them for the tumutltuous teenage years.
“I think this is suggesting that this is possible a second critical phase of development, where we might be able to intervene to ‘reset’ kids who are on a riskier path,” explains lead study researcher Lisa Mundy to Sydney Morning Herald.
If you suspect your son is going through adrenarche, here are ways to guide them:
- Acknowledge their feelings. Know that early puberty in boys can foster feelings of insecurity. Validate their feelings without making them feel bad about it. Let them know you understand and you love them no matter what.
- Give them space. Puberty can be a confusing time and hovering can make it even more stressful. Give your child room to grow while assuring them that you’re there if they need help.
- Don’t force them to open up. Give them time to process feelings on their own. Don’t negate their mood swings by getting angry or punishing them. Be patient with them, but also be firm when it comes to correcting rude behaviour.
- Provide outlets for exertion. Allow them time alone, to write in a journal, or play games that help them blow off steam. You can also encourage them to engage in sports.
- Listen without judging. Don’t belittle their emotions, but give them the right tools and a safe environment to communicate in.
Lead and featured image: Pexels
Sources: Journal of Adolescent Health, WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Annals of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism, Sydney Morning Herald
ALSO READ: 8 Ways to maximise your daughter’s growth during puberty!