Go With The Flow

Stages of Puberty: The Tanner Stages

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Everyone goes through puberty differently and everyone deals with puberty differently. Period stains, armpit hair, body odor, acne are just some things movies don’t talk about when they show teenagers getting their post-puberty glow up.

Knowing about the changes that come with puberty does have its benefits and it’s really important to know that everybody goes through it. Doesn’t matter where you live, doesn’t matter whether you’re a boy or a girl, whether you like k-pop or country music, puberty will find you!

Puberty has its stages that occur at certain ages in developing kids. In this blog, we’re going to take a look at these stages of puberty, referred to as the ‘Tanner stages,’ and review the signs and symptoms to expect during each stage. Let’s get to it!

What exactly is Tanner stages of puberty?


In 1948, the British government initiated a study at Harpenden Orphanage to study the effects of malnutrition on children. Dr. James Tanner (NAME DROP!!) oversaw this study, and over the course of the research he charted and photographed the growth of the children participating in the study. We’re talking about years of careful observation and data here!

This gathered data led to the development of the Tanner stages, now used by pediatricians around the globe to monitor the pattern of growth in children going through puberty.

Tanner Stage 1

This first stage describes what really happens in a child before physical changes set in. This stage is the same for both boys and girls. It typically starts around age 8 for girls and around 9 or 10 for boys.

During this stage, the brain sends signals to the body to prepare for the changes of puberty. You don’t see it on the outside yet but your body is preparing for puberty.

Tanner Stage 2

The second stage marks the development of physical changes. From here on out, every stage will be divided as girls and boys to put focus on the changes experienced by both the sexes.

  • Girls

    Female Tanner stages are typically a year or so behind male Tanner stages. Stage 2 for girls usually starts between ages 9 and 11.

    During this stage, the first signs of breasts, called ‘buds’, start to appear under the nipples. They might be itchy or tender, or one bud may be larger than the other and grow at different rates. The areola (darker area around the nipple) will also begin to expand during this stage.

    In addition to breasts development, girls will also notice the growth of small amounts of pubic hair. The uterus too begins to expand.

  • Boys

    Male puberty stages are pretty straightforward. Stage 2 Usually starts around age 11 for boys. They will notice the testicles and the skin around the testicles get bigger and small amounts of public hair at the base of the penis.

Tanner Stage 3

Physical changes finally come to the forefront and hog all the spotlight in this stage.

  • Girls

    The physical development from the previous stage continues in full swing and the rest of the physical changes typically start after age 12.

    Girls finally hit their growth spurt and their highest growth rate ever in their life for their height begins. Their breast ‘buds’ continue to grow and expand and their pubic hair becomes thicker and curlier. They also start to grow hair under the armpits and notice the first signs of acne on their face and back.

  • Boys

    The physical changes in boys typically start around age 13.

    Their muscles get bigger and their voice begins to change or crack. Their penis grows longer while their testicles continue its growth. If you’ve been around adolescent boys you know that they’ll even hold competitions over whose battle ship is bigger.

    They will also start having wet dreams during this stage.

    As for their growth in two other departments, it’s similar to girls: Their hit their growth spurt and breast tissues start to form under their nipples… it goes away in a couple of years though. Hair starts growing thicker and curlier in their genital area, chest, back, underarms and other places.

Tanner Stage 4

Puberty is in its full swing during this stage and adolescents start noticing many changes. Physical changes become the most prominent during this stage and so does the glaring difference in physique between the two sexes.

  • Girls

    This stage usually starts around the age of 13 and girls get their appreciation letter from mother nature for becoming a woman: First period!

    Passing the ‘bud’, their breasts take on a fuller shape and their pubic hair grows thicker. Their growth vertically (height), however, slows down.

  • Boys

    Stage 4 usually starts around the age of 14 in boys. Acnes! Armpit hair! And a dark scrotum getting even darker, are things they will notice. Their penis and testicles continue to grow bigger. Their voice gets a few tones deeper and they get to keep it forever!

Tanner Stage 5

The last stage of puberty! Teens will reach their final adult height and full physical maturation.

  • Girls

    The final stage usually starts around the age 15. The breasts reach their approximate size and shape and can continue to grow till the age of 18. Their periods become more regular and they will reach their full adult height 1 to 2 years after their first period. Reproductive organs and genitals fully develop and their hips, thighs and buttocks fill out in shape.

    And so, stages of female puberty end here and they become full-fledged adults.

  • Boys

    Boys’ stage 5 starts around the age of 15 years too. Penis, testicles and scrotum reach their adult size and pubic hair grows to its fullest. Their height growth slows down but their muscles may continue growing.

    They will also start growing facial hair and begin to resemble a GOAT with beard. Excuse me, the GOAT here stands for Greatest of All Time, not your regular goat. Some boys will reach their full height by the age of 18, others may continue to grow.

Puberty is a years-long process involving physical and hormonal changes – which can be confusing and uncomfortable to go through. Teens also go through their rebellious phase during puberty (hormones at work again) and are likely going through a lot of emotions over their newfound facial acne, menstrual cramps, body odor, hair growth, etc. Therefore, it falls on the shoulders of parents and caregivers to establish a line of communication with them and see them through the mess called puberty.

If time permits (read: word length and your attention span) then we would’ve also loved to go over the emotional roller-coaster these teens go through during their puberty, but we guess we’ll save that for another blog. If you have anymore doubts about puberty and its stages, feel free to comment below and we’ll get right back to you!

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