Secondary sexual characteristics in boys: Data from the pediatric research in office settings network

Marcia E. Herman-Giddens, Jennifer Steffes, Donna Harris, Eric Slora, Michael Hussey, Steven A. Dowshen, Richard Wasserman, Janet R. Serwint, Lynn Smitherman, Edward O. Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Data from racially and ethnically diverse US boys are needed to determine ages of onset of secondary sexual characteristics and examine secular trends. Current international studies suggest earlier puberty in boys than previous studies, following recent trend in girls. METHODS: Two hundred and twelve practitioners collected Tanner stage and testicular volume data on 4131 boys seen for well-child care in 144 pediatric offices across the United States. Data were analyzed for prevalence and mean ages of onset of sexual maturity markers. RESULTS: Mean ages for onset of Tanner 2 genital development for non- Hispanic white, African American, and Hispanic boys were 10.14, 9.14, and 10.04 years and for stage 2 pubic hair, 11.47, 10.25, and 11.43 years respectively. Mean years for achieving testicular volumes of ≥3 mL were 9.95 for white, 9.71 for African American, and 9.63 for Hispanic boys; and for ≥4 mL were 11.46, 11.75, and 11.29 respectively. African American boys showed earlier (P < .0001) mean ages for stage 2 to 4 genital development and stage 2 to 4 pubic hair than white and Hispanic boys. No statistical differences were observed between white and Hispanic boys. CONCLUSIONS: Observed mean ages of beginning genital and pubic hair growth and early testicular volumes were 6 months to 2 years earlier than in past studies, depending on the characteristic and race/ ethnicity. The causes and public health implications of this apparent shift in US boys to a lower age of onset for the development of secondary sexual characteristics in US boys needs further exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1058-e1068
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Growth and development
  • PROS
  • Puberty
  • Secondary sexual characteristics
  • Secular changes
  • Tanner staging
  • Testicular volume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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