Girls enter puberty between the ages of 7-13. Boys enter this stage between the ages of 9-14. When this stage is late, it is called delayed sexual development.
This condition can be caused by:
Factors that may increase the chance of delayed puberty include:
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One common symptom for both boys and girls is being short for their age. Other symptoms by gender include:
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child's milestones and growth record will be reviewed. An x-ray of the left wrist bones will be taken to assess bone age. This will help to assess if bone development is normal for your child’s current level of pubertal development.
Your child's hormone levels will be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures if the cause needs to be further identified. This can be done with:
No treatment is usually needed for those who are healthy and just starting later than their peers. They will continue to be monitored.
Other treatment depends on the cause. For those who have a chronic underlying disease, treatment is aimed at the specific condition. After the condition is treated, puberty often begins on its own.
For others, treatments may include:
Sex hormones will help start sexual development. They will be given to those who cannot make their own, such children with chromosomal abnormalities. This can include Turner syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome.
Hormones may also be given to teens who are severely delayed or overly stressed by their lack of development. They may stimulate the onset of normal puberty.
Counseling may be suggested for adolescents who are struggling with the delay. This may help the child cope with social pressures.
Your child’s height, weight, and sexual development will continue to be monitored. This will help determine if any treatment has been effective.
Most causes of delayed sexual development cannot be prevented. To help reduce the chance, make sure your child maintains a healthy lifestyle. This includes making sure your child is eating well and getting nutrients. Make sure any underlying illness is treated.
Family Doctor—The American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Delayed puberty in boys: information for parents. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/puberty/Pages/Delayed-Puberty.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed March 19, 2018.
Delayed puberty. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/changing_body/delayed_puberty.html. Updated January 2015. Accessed March 19, 2018.
Delayed puberty. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/delayed-puberty. Updated September 7, 2015. Accessed March 19, 2018.
Delayed puberty/sexual development in children. Boston Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/delayed-puberty-delayed-sexual-development. Accessed March 19, 2018.
Female delayed puberty. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115697/Female-delayed-puberty. Updated January 9, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2018.
Male delayed puberty. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116902/Male-delayed-puberty. Updated January 9, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2018.
What causes normal puberty, precocious puberty, and delayed puberty. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/puberty/conditioninfo/Pages/causes.aspx. Updated December 1, 2016. Accessed March 19, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 5/11/2015