Inside: As a parent, knowing what the stages of puberty in boys (or male bodies) are, means that you can prepare and support your child as they go through this important stage of life.
As a parent myself (with a son who is on the cusp of puberty), awareness of the stages of puberty in male bodies is a handy thing to know.
Because by knowing what the stages of puberty in male children are, you can at least be prepared for what changes will be happening to your child. And prepare your child by talking about them before they even happen. Especially when it comes to things like wet dreams!
When we look at breaking puberty up into stages of development, we are often talking about the Tanner Scale. A British paediatric endocrinologist, James Tanner, developed the Tanner Scale in the mid-1900’s to measure the stages of sexual development during puberty.
The Tanner Scale is still used today. Although puberty starts earlier in kids today, the sequence of changes that happen in boys is unchanged.
And don’t forget that the timing of when these changes will happen to your child vary. Some kids can be earlier or later than others.
So what are the stages of puberty in males?
PS I have tried to keep this post jargon-free but I have used the correct names for the private parts of the body ie the genitals. This article talks about the importance of using the correct terms when talking to kids about their private parts of their body.
You’ll find more information about puberty in my Puberty 101 page.
(approximately between the ages of 9 and 12)
So what can you expect with the first of the stages of puberty in male bodies?
The first changes that will happen to your child are hidden as they are happening deep inside their body. The body will start to release hormones that will trigger the changes to start happening. The main hormone for males is testosterone. It will begin to surge in your child’s body, causing their testicles to grow and make sperm, but no changes can yet be seen outside their body.
No changes can yet be seen outside their body, other than some growth of the scrotum and testicles. Some kids may have a growth spurt, and some may start to grow very fine hairs in the pubic area.
(approximately between 9 and 14)
So what can you expect with the second of the stages of puberty in male bodies?
Your child’s testicles will continue to slowly grow, with one testicle now beginning to hang lower than the other. Their scrotum will also hang lower, becoming darker in colour, thinner and less smooth. Their penis will remain unchanged. It may grow slightly larger, but usually, there is little or no change at all. They may start to have erections more frequently, but they still aren’t ejaculating.
Fine hair may begin to grow at the base of the penis and scrotum. These first hairs are usually long, slightly pigmented (coloured) and straight or slightly curly. It is normal for some kids not to grow hair just yet.
Your child will start to grow taller and the shape of their body will begin to change. Before they grow taller, their feet and hands will usually have a growth spurt of their own. Your child will also gain weight as they start to develop muscle, and as their bones grow bigger.
(approximately between 11 and 16)
So what can you expect with the third of the stages of puberty in male bodies?
Your child’s testicles and scrotum will continue to grow. Sperm production may begin for some, but not all kids i.e. ejaculation. Males usually discover this during masturbation, or they might wake up in the morning with wet pants after a wet dream (nocturnal emission). Their penis will start to grow. It will grow longer, rather than wider. Erections will be a lot more common than before, often at the wrong time, or in the wrong place.
Some kids may only now be starting to develop pubic hair. It will become darker, thicker and curlier, and start to cover a much wider area. Hair will continue to grow on their legs and underarms.
It can be common for kids to experience short-term swelling and tenderness around the nipples. As their shoulders grow wider, this breast tissue will flatten, usually disappearing within one or two years.
Your child’s body will still be growing, and gaining weight and height. Sweat and oil glands will become more active, which can result in acne. Body odour is here to stay. Their voice will begin to crack as the voice box gets larger.
(approximately from 11 to 17)
So what can you expect with the fourth of the stages of puberty in male bodies?
Your child’s testicles and scrotum will continue to grow, with the skin continuing to darken. Males will now begin to produce sperm, which means that wet dreams (nocturnal emissions) may start to happen, and they will ejaculate with masturbation and sexual arousal. Not all males will have wet dreams (either is normal).
Their penis will become thicker and longer. Pubic hair continues to grow as well as on their legs and underarms. Facial hair will start to grow on their face, usually on the upper lip, chin and near the ears.
Your child’s skin may become oily, especially around the chin, nose, forehead, chest and/or back. Some kids may develop acne or pimples. Their hair is also more likely to become oily too. Their voice will continue to crack at times and deepen.
Your child will keep on gaining weight and growing taller.
(approximately between 14 and 18)
So what can you expect with the fifth and last of the stages of puberty in male bodies?
This is the last stage of changes. Your child will now reach their full height and will look like a young adult. Their pubic hair will now cover their groin, and possibly even their inner thighs. Their genitals will now be fully grown and will look the same as those of an adult male. Your child may now choose to shave, as their facial hair continues to grow. Some kids will begin to grow chest hair.
Resources to help with talking about puberty
My mission is to create resources that will help you to naturally talk to your kids about sex, all while respecting your personal values.
Which means that inside this website, you’ll find lots of resources to help you with talking to your child about puberty.
My Puberty 101 page includes all of the information on puberty. You’ll find lots of different blog posts to help with talking to your child about growing up.
You’ll find videos about puberty in my Sex Education Videos resource page that you can watch with your child or to learn more about puberty yourself.
You’ll also find an extensive range of children’s books on puberty, for kids of all ages.
If you get stuck and feel that you need some extra support with talking to your child about puberty, then my book, The Parents’ Guide to Puberty, may be helpful. It’s a straightforward common sense guide that will help you to start having honest conversations that will guide your child through puberty, and strengthen your relationship without feeling embarrassed, awkward or nervous.
Or maybe you’re looking for a video course to sit down and watch together with your child. My friend Rowena from Amazing Me has created a fantastic 2 part interactive course for parents/carers to attend together with their 9 to 12 year old. It’s fun, educational and age-appropriate! You can learn more about her puberty course here.
If you have a child who is expecting their first period, then you may want to consider period pants. Period pants are fantastic for kids who are worried that they won’t know that their period has started until it stains through their clothing for the world to see. My favourite brand for tweens and teens is ModiBodi, as they are good quality and quite absorbent.
If you need some help with explaining sexual intercourse to your child, then How to Talk to Kids About Sex will help you explain sex to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks sex down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If you’re unsure about how to answer your child’s questions about sex, then I have the perfect book for you! The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid’s ask parents about sex. Which means you don’t need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands.
And if you get stuck, feel free to get in touch! You can contact me here.
- Adolescence and Puberty. Edited by John Bancroft and June Machover Reinisch. 1990. Oxford University Press. New York.
- Gender Differences at Puberty. Edited by Chris Haywood. 2003. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.
- Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexuality: Developmental and Forensic Psychology. Edited by Daniel S. Bromberg and William T. O’Donohue. 2013. Elsevier. Academic Press. Oxford.
- Puberty: Physiology and Abnormalities by Philip Kumanov and Ashok Agarwal. 2016. Springer International Publishing. Switzerland.