Is puberty starting earlier in urban South Africa?

Am J Hum Biol. 2009 May-Jun;21(3):395-7. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.20868.


Age at the initation of pubertal development was estimated for 401 Black (212 boys) and 206 White (100 boys) urban South African adolescents born in Soweto-Johannesburg in 1990. Average age at the initation of puberty, assessed by age at the transition from Tanner Stage 1 to Tanner Stage 2 for breast/genitalia or pubic hair development ranged between 9.8 and 10.5 years. There were no statistically significant differences in age at initiation between genders or ethnic groups. Age at the initation of pubertal development has remained stable over the last 10 to 15 years, with the exception of pubic hair in boys which has declined on average 1.3 years over a decade. There is evidence to suggest that the tempo of pubertal maturation is increasing in girls born in the Soweto-Johannesburg area, however, the evidence is less clear for boys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / physiology
  • Age of Onset
  • Black People
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • White People