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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury



Puberty affects both boys and girls. It is the time when your body starts to change from being a child into being a young adult, as you become sexually mature. Puberty can take up to four years. It can happen at any time but is most common between the ages of 8 and 14.

There is a wide range of "normal". It is important to understand that everyone is different, and everyone will go through puberty at different times. You might start early and finish before your friends or they might start and finish before you.

Physical changes

Puberty happens when your body produces hormones that cause physical changes in your body. These changes include hair growing in your pubic area and armpits. You will also notice other physical changes. If you are a girl, you will grow breasts and start your period. If you are a boy, your penis and testicles will get bigger. Boys may also get a deeper voice and start to grow facial hair. You may get acne.

Emotional changes

The physical changes of puberty often come with behavioural and emotional changes. Some of these emotions are exciting, but you may notice a new range of emotions and your mood may change a lot. You may feel self-conscious about the changes in your body, including increased body odour. At times, these changing emotions can feel like being on a roller coaster.

Peer pressure

Peer pressure can also be a big issue to deal with. It is great to get positive encouragement from your friends. But it is not so great if they are encouraging you to do something that could be harmful.

As a rangatahi (young person) you are developing your sense of identity and independence and learning how to look after yourself and stay safe. If you feel like your friends might be going a bit too far, it will help if you have already figured out your own personal values (what is important to you) and your boundaries (things you will not do). It is OK to say "No" and you do not have to explain why.

You will find helpful advice and tips for managing peer pressure on


If you have any questions, are worried about puberty or are finding the changes you are experiencing hard to cope with, it is important to talk to someone you trust. This may be someone from your whānau (family) or your general practice team.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2023.


See also:


Bullying information for young people

Overview of the female reproductive system

Penis & testicles


Vulval & vaginal care

Page reference: 53211

Review key: HIPUY-53211