Puberty as a life history transition

Ann Hum Biol. 2012 Sep;39(5):352-60. doi: 10.3109/03014460.2012.693199. Epub 2012 Jun 20.


Background: James Tanner's landmark publication, Growth at Adolescence, was not only the first and most comprehensive treatise on the subject of human pubertal development of its time, its core insights have held up remarkably well over time.

Review: This review connects Tanner's contributions to contemporary understanding of puberty as a process fundamentally driven by neuroendocrine maturation. It introduces the concepts of the 'hour-glass of puberty' and 'somatic strategy' as heuristic constructs. The 'hour-glass of puberty' describes the converging pathways of information flow influencing the timing of the neuroendocrine events of puberty and its ramifying consequences throughout the body. Somatic strategy refers to the pattern of sex-specific, adult body morphology that develops at puberty as the individual undergoes a life history transition from juvenile to adult.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / physiology
  • Animals
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Young Adult


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptides
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone