chapter  1
24 Pages

Female Pubertal Development

Puberty has been labeled the most important biological event in development (Grave, 1974). It is second only to infancy in the rate of growth experienced by the individual and is characterized by rapid physical growth, large increases in levels of hormones, and the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics (Pet­ ersen & Taylor, 1980). During puberty the body is transformed from the physical appearance of a child to that of an adult. Individuals are acutely aware of pubertal changes and actively work to integrate these changes in their definition of self. The somatic changes become visible to parents, friends, and others, signaling the beginning of adolescence. Changes in pubertal status have been associated with changes on a number of psychosocial constructs such as self-concept, cognitive abilities, family relationships, and sexuality (e.g., Crockett & Pet­ ersen, 1987; Simmons, Blyth, Van Cleave & Bush, 1979; Steinberg & Hill, 1978; Tanner, 1962). In addition, the effects of pubertal development on certain behaviors are different for boys and girls (Petersen, 1988). Thus, pubertal devel­ opment is an important life transition that affects the individual at the biological, psychological, and sociological levels.