Mental health problems during puberty: Tanner stage-related differences in specific symptoms. The TRAILS study

J Adolesc. 2011 Feb;34(1):73-85. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.01.010. Epub 2010 Feb 21.


The aim of this study was to investigate associations between specific mental health problems and pubertal stage in (pre)adolescents participating in the Dutch prospective cohort study TRAILS (first assessment: N=2230, age 11.09±0.56, 50.8% girls; second assessment: N=2149, age 13.56±0.53, 51.0% girls). Mental health was assessed by the Youth Self-Report, pubertal (Tanner) stage by parent-rated drawings of secondary sex characteristics. Overall, higher Tanner stages were related to more reported tiredness, irritability, rule-breaking behaviors, and substance use; and fewer fears and somatic complaints. Girls showed increases in social uncertainty, depressed mood, and worries; boys a decrease in self-criticism. Increasing problems during puberty were mostly related to the process of physical maturation, whereas decreasing problems were rather related to general age-related developments. Pubertal timing was associated with different symptoms than pubertal status or age. Puberty seems to affect girls more negatively than boys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Netherlands
  • Prospective Studies
  • Puberty / psychology*
  • Sexual Maturation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires