Locations:
Search IconSearch

Growing Up: The Stages of Puberty for Boys

Timing will vary, but stages of development shouldn't

teen boy looking out window pensive

A cracking voice. Wild growth spurts. A little facial hair sprouting on the chin. Welcome to puberty for boys, a rite of passage that bridges the gap between childhood and manhood.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The stages of male puberty follow a definite path with a progression of physical changes. The timing of these changes, however, varies widely from person to person.

Let’s look at the process with adolescent medicine specialist Veronica Issac, MD.

When do boys hit puberty?

Boys tend to begin and end puberty sometime between age 10 and 18. (That’s about two years later than girls.) Black and Hispanic children tend to enter puberty a bit earlier than white children.

A tool called the Tanner Stages outlines the stages of puberty for boys (and girls), and when they’re likely to occur. For parents, they can serve as an excellent guide to the changes you can expect to see.

Here are the five stages of puberty for boys and the signs of each.

Stage 1: Boyhood

In this “prepubescent” stage, boys have not experienced visible changes. Their brain, however, is starting to send signals about what’s ahead.

Stage 2: Physical changes begin

In this stage, typically beginning between age 9½ and 14½, boys experience:

  • Genital development (growth of the testicles and scrotum).
  • The growth of sparse hair around the penis and under their arms.
  • An increase in height (typically about 2 to 2½ inches per year), which could bring growing pains.

Stage 3: Physical changes accelerate

In this stage, occurring between age 10 and 16½, boys experience:

  • Continued growth of the penis and testicles, as well as possible “wet dreams,” or ejaculation at night while they sleep.
  • Darkening, coarsening and more coverage by hair of the genital area.
  • Continued increase in height (about 2¾ to just over 3 inches) per year.
  • More sweating, which can lead to body odor.
  • Vocal changes (and cracking in the process).
  • Increased muscle mass.

“Some breast development, or gynecomastia, may occur in about 50% of all teenage boys, but it typically resolves by the end of puberty,” notes Dr. Issac. “If this becomes an issue physically or socially, suggest that your son talks with his healthcare provider.”

Stage 4: Puberty hits full stride

In this stage, which can occur between ages 11 and 16½, boys experience:

  • Growth in penis size and darkening of the skin on the scrotum and testicles.
  • Body hair growth that reaches adult levels.
  • A peak growth spurt that averages nearly 4 inches per year.
  • Development of acne.
  • Continued cracking of the voice.

Advertisement

Stage 5: The final phase

Boys finish their growth and physical development during this stage. Many may not develop facial hair until this step in the process. Most boys finish growing by age 17.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your pediatrician when you have concerns about your son’s progress through puberty, says Dr. Issac. A physical exam and other tests will help to rule out problems, pinpoint underlying issues or provide you with reassurance.

The emotional side of puberty

Whenever your son enters puberty, you can expect to see some emotional upheaval. Increased testosterone coupled with social pressures may cause moody behavior, emotional outbursts and family discord.

Parents can typically ride out these issues. (Read what a pediatric psychologist says about talking to your teen.)

“However, if serious emotional problems arise — if your son doesn’t want to do the things he usually enjoys, or hang out with his friends or experiences a drop in grades — it’s important to have him evaluated with his pediatrician,” says Dr. Issac.

Emotional issues could be a sign of a mood disorder or other psychological concerns, notes Dr. Issac. Medication and/or therapy may be useful in these instances.

What if puberty hits really early or late?

Not everyone is on the same timetable. Some boys begin to see changes very early, which is called precocious puberty. Others may not see changes until later, which is often referred to as delayed puberty.

Let’s look at each situation.

Precocious (early) puberty

If your son shows signs of puberty before turning 9, visit the pediatrician. This may signal a pituitary problem or neurological issue, notes Dr. Issac. The doctor should evaluate your son as soon as you suspect a problem.

Possible causes for early puberty include:

  • The pituitary gland “turning on” hormones too early.
  • Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland).
  • A tumor on the adrenal gland or elsewhere.

If the problem is hormonal, an endocrinologist can prescribe medication to halt puberty until the time is right. If your doctor suspects another problem, your son may be referred for further testing.

Delayed puberty

If your son starts puberty after age 14 or isn’t progressing through puberty, you’ll also want to check with your doctor. “Often the child is merely a late bloomer — particularly if dad was as well,” says Dr. Issac.

But hormone or endocrine abnormalities can also delay puberty. If your doctor suspects an underlying problem, your son will likely be referred to a specialist for more testing.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Adult in the passenger seat of car while smiling teen drives
June 19, 2024/Children's Health
Teen Not Talking? Here’s How To Break the Silence

Talking in the car, resisting the urge to judge and asking specific questions can help rebuild rapport

Teen caged in their own mind
May 24, 2024/Children's Health
The Teen Mental Health Crisis: How To Help Your Child

American teens are facing unprecedented rates of depression and suicide, but you can be there to support and help them

Teen lying on bed holding cell phone up reading it
May 9, 2024/Parenting
Sexting: The Risks and How To Talk to Your Children About It

Sexting has become all too common among kids, putting them at risk for bullying, blackmailing and human trafficking

Teen sitting in window well staring out the window
May 3, 2024/Mental Health
Signs Your Teen Is Self-Harming

Unexplained injuries, mood changes and sudden isolation may be signs your child needs help

Sad teenager holding smartphone with various chat bubbles in background
January 29, 2024/Children's Health
How To Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Body Image

Foster communication about social media, encourage whole-person attributes and be mindful of your own negative self-talk

pregnant mother with father on couch with son
January 25, 2024/Children's Health
Baby on the Way? Here’s How To Prepare Siblings for Their Arrival

Talk with them about their new sibling early and often

group of children and parent walking to school bus
August 20, 2023/Children's Health
Back to School Safety 101: Class Is in Session

An ounce of prevention ... is worth a great school year!

child dragging heavy backpack
August 9, 2023/Children's Health
Is Your Child’s Bookbag Weighing Them Down? Here’s How To Lighten the Load

For starters, pick the right size backpack for your child, with wide, padded straps

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad