A cross-sectional analysis examining the impact of gender and early pubertal stage on insulin sensitivity (Si) and body composition was carried out as part of a longitudinal study to determine how Si relates to body composition changes during puberty. The study population consisted of 97 healthy children (age range, 9.7-14.5 yr; 28 Tanner stage 2 boys, 25 stage 3 boys, 22 Tanner stage 2 girls, and 22 stage 3 girls). Si was determined by the modified minimal model of Bergman. Body fatness was assessed by body mass index (BMI), skinfold thickness, hydrodensitometry, and bioelectrical impedance. Results showed that stage 3 girls and stage 2 boys had significantly more body fat than stage 2 girls and stage 3 boys. Si was significantly lower (P < 0.02) and insulin-like growth factor-I levels higher (P < 0.006) in stage 3 girls compared to those in the other 3 groups. The best predictor of Si in all subjects was BMI (r2 = -0.63; P < 0.0001). In a stepwise multiple regression analysis, Si was best predicted from BMI, gender, and Tanner stage. According to this model, Si decreased as BMI increased and was lower in girls and Tanner stage 3 children. In boys, Si was best predicted from total fat mass and Tanner stage. In girls, Si correlated inversely with BMI, parental obesity, and insulin-like growth factor-I levels. Neither testosterone nor estradiol levels were associated with Si. These results demonstrate that Si, like body composition, has gender-dependent changes during puberty. It is, thus, possible that these pubertal changes in Si relate to changes in body composition.