Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction to enable fertilization. It is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads: the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy. In response to the signals, the gonads produce hormones that stimulate libido and the growth, function, and transformation of the brain, bones, muscle, blood, skin, hair, breasts, and sex organs. Physical growth—height and weight—accelerates in the first half of puberty and is completed when an adult body has been developed. Until the maturation of their reproductive capabilities, the pre-pubertal physical differences between boys and girls are the external sex organs.
On average, girls begin puberty around ages 10–11; boys around ages 11–12.[1][2] Girls usually complete puberty around ages 15–17,[2][3][4] while boys usually complete puberty around ages 16–17.[2][3][5] The major landmark of puberty for females is menarche, the onset of menstruation, which occurs on average between ages 12–13;[6][7][8][9] for males, it is the first ejaculation, which occurs on average at age 13.[10] In the 21st century, the average age at which children, especially girls, reach puberty is lower compared to the 19th century, when it was 15 for girls and 16 for boys.[11] This can be due to any number of factors, including improved nutrition resulting in rapid body growth, increased weight and fat deposition,[12] or exposure to endocrine disruptors such as xenoestrogens, which can at times be due to food consumption or other environmental factors.[13][14] Puberty which starts earlier than usual is known as precocious puberty. Puberty which starts later than usual is known as delayed puberty.