& the Family
Puberty and Metamorphosis
Boys are girls are most alike in the first decade of their lives. Body shape is similar and physical abilities are comparable. Girls tend to grow faster than boys and may be bigger and more confident as puberty begins.
At puberty, sex hormone production increases and children of both sexes undergo a complete transformation. Childhood ends with the onset of puberty. Teenagers undergo profound changes in mental tendencies and abilities as their brains change during and after puberty. The metamorphosis of a child into a reproductive adult is comparable to the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Body size, shape and mind are transformed. Females stop growing in height but gain weight as they store fat in breasts, buttocks and thighs. Boys continue to grow taller, reaching higher average heights than females.
While children naturally form male and female groups and are somewhat segregated, they are more innocent, versatile and adaptable. Social rules often exaggerate this natural tendency and in many societies male-female separation is strictly enforced. The emergence of male and female sexual maturation ends the relative innocence of children and adolescents developed complicated social groupings with strict inclusion/exclusion rules. Males and females face each other across boundaries that are both abstract and real.
There is a mix of longing, tension and misunderstanding. Sometimes conflict erupts at the gender interface. Sexual attraction eventually wins over gender differences and for unsupervised teenagers, sexual intercourse begins soon after puberty. There is a recent trend for earlier onset puberty in girls.
The physical metamorphosis that begins with puberty is obvious. The sexual characteristics of each gender emerge over months to years. A 14-year-old girl with an early start can appear to be a sexually mature woman; she will attract and may confuse adult males who may misjudge or ignore her age and seek sexual contact.
Males grow larger and more muscular. They develop facial and body hair. The penis enlarges and becomes erect more often. Increased production of male hormones in both sexes leads to the growth of facial and body hair and acne develops as sebaceous glands overproduce their oily secretions. Many adolescents are disfigured by skin infections in plugged sebaceous gland ducts that are stimulated by male hormone.
Sisk and Foster suggested that: “…attainment of adult reproductive status involves both gonadal and behavioral maturation through a series of brain-driven, developmentally timed events, modulated by internal and external sensory cues… The brain initiates gonadal steroid hormone production at puberty; hormones in turn activate neural circuits mediating reproductive behavior during adolescence”
Persona Digital Books