Pubertal Status Effects

Examining links between pubertal status and adjustment involves comparisons of outcomes among adolescents at different levels or stages of key external signs of pubertal development (e.g., breast growth, pubic hair, testicular changes). Pubertal staging is usually indexed by some measure of Tanner stages that range from no signs of development to completed development. Pubertal status is considered important because it signifies that the adolescent is more adult-like in appearance, which may result in different responses from family and peers in the adolescents' social world, as well as changes in how adolescents view themselves.

Since hormonal changes are the cause of the changes in physical growth and development, it is often difficult to disentangle hormonal and status effects on adjustment. For example, as described in the previous section, a study by Angold and colleagues (1998) found that only after reaching Tanner stage III were girls more likely than boys to experience higher rates of depressive disorder. However, subsequent analyses showed that effects of elevated estradiol and testosterone levels eliminated effects due to secondary sexual characteristics (Angold et al., 1999). This study suggests that when pubertal status effects on adjustment are found, they are likely be driven by hormonal changes.

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