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The Informed Parent

Male Puberty Development

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Oct. 08, 2012

A common concern among the early adolescent male is the awakening of puberty changes. This is especially a worry when physical education classes require disrobing and showering in front of classmates.

In anticipation of this event an 11-year-old boy may hesitantly approach his dad with the awkward question about penis size. “And, do doctors perform surgery on penises to make them longer?”

Puberty timing starts across a wide variety of chronological ages, and even differs according to each sex. Attempts to categorize a child’s pubertal development by his or her age is thus very difficult.

Puberty is defined in three stages: early, middle and late. The stages generally follow a constant pattern, regardless of the child’s age. For boys, the five sexual maturity stages are grouped as follows: stage 1 is defined as pre-adolescent; stage 2 as early adolescent. Stage 3 and 4 are considered middle adolescent while stage 5 is late adolescent and full sexual maturity.

Stage 2 for males usually begins in the range of 10 ½ -to-15 years of age. It lasts around six months to two years. Middle adolescence, which is stages 3 and 4, generally begins at 12-to-15 ½ years. It lasts six months to three years. Late adolescence and full sexual maturity, which is stage 5, is generally reached by 16 years of age.

In stage 2, the length of the penis is increased only slightly, and other findings are seen: pubic and axillary hair develop, the scrotum and testicles begin to enlarge, and muscular development and height increase.

Penile development advances in stage 3, primarily in length, and then matures further in stages 4 and 5. In general, the penis remains thinner in proportion to its length until late in puberty, when it increases in width as well.

One can see there is quite a range of variability in sexual development and maturation. This 11-year-old boy’s penis will stay pre-adolescent until stage 2 begins which is around 10 1/2-to-15 years of age. Then it will develop only slightly until stage 3. These are age ranges of development, and it is difficult to compare any two individuals.

Patience and reassurance should assure this child that his development will begin soon. Down playing any differences this boy describes between he and his friends will ultimately minimize his anxiety and concern. A visit to his pediatrician should answer any further questions.

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