Puberty is a period of several years in which rapid physical growth and psychological changes occur, culminating in sexual maturity.
For example, researchers in neuroscience or bio-behavioral health might focus on pubertal changes in brain structure and its effects on cognition or social relations.
Sociologists interested in adolescence might focus on the acquisition of social roles (e.g., worker or romantic partner) and how this varies across cultures or social conditions.
In studying adolescent development, adolescence can be defined biologically, as the physical transition marked by the onset of puberty and the termination of physical growth; cognitively, as changes in the ability to think abstractly and multi-dimensionally; or socially, as a period of preparation for adult roles.
Major pubertal and biological changes include changes to the sex organs, height, weight, and muscle mass, as well as major changes in brain structure and organization.
This non-uniform growth is one reason why an adolescent body may seem out of proportion.
During puberty, bones become harder and more brittle.This is triggered by the pituitary gland, which secretes a surge of hormonal agents into the blood stream, initiating a chain reaction to occur.The male and female gonads are subsequently activated, which puts them into a state of rapid growth and development; the triggered gonads now commence the mass production of the necessary chemicals.The accelerated growth in different body parts happens at different times, but for all adolescents it has a fairly regular sequence.The first places to grow are the extremities—the head, hands and feet—followed by the arms and legs, then the torso and shoulders.Consequently, girls that reach sexual maturation early are more likely than their peers to develop eating disorders (such as anorexia nervosa).