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Medically and scientifically, puberty denotes the physiological processes through which a child’s body matures to become capable of sexual reproduction. Triggered by an as yet poorly understood set of factors—genes, nutrition, physical environment, and social relationships—puberty is a cascade of hormonal actions that stimulate the growth of genitalia, pubic hair, breasts, and body hair, changing physiological forms and related brain–body experiences, such as sexual interest and desire. In psychosocial terms, puberty is often understood both as the beginning of the end of childhood or the trigger for moving into adolescence and as a process through which gender identity solidifies. This entry discusses two key factors changing the contemporary experience of puberty: (1) the as yet poorly understood processes affecting the timing of puberty in many ...

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