All healthy teen boys go through puberty, which is the time when their bodies begin to mature sexually. The years following the onset of puberty are called adolescence, a time when a teen boy’s body and mind develop toward adulthood. For boys, the onset of puberty usually occurs between ages 13 and 15, depending on genetic and nutritional factors. The changes of puberty are triggered when the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, or endocrine glands, in the brain send out chemicals called hormones. These hormones trigger the production of testosterone in a teen boy’s testicles, and his body begins producing sperm.
Unlike teen girls, teen boys do not have one event that marks the onset of puberty, but a number of developmental changes occur:
- Changes in the teen’s vocal cords, with his voice eventually sounding deeper
- Rapid changes in size, especially height
- More active sweat glands; usually a teen boy will need to use deodorant at this time
- More active oil glands, sometimes causing acne
- The penis and scrotum grow and develop, usually reaching adult size by age 16 or 17
- Growth of beard, body, and armpit hair, usually beginning at about age 12 and continuing through the teenage years
- Increased shoulder width
- Nighttime ejaculations or “wet dreams”
During this time of physical change, teens need to get plenty of sleep and develop good habits like exercise, healthy eating, and good hygiene.
Besides physical changes, teen boys also begin to undergo emotional, mental, and behavioral changes that are part of the development of identity and the transition into adulthood.
Teen boys tend to feel awkward or self-conscious about their body and the changes they are experiencing, and frequently compare themselves to others. This focus on their appearance and their changing bodies and abilities can make teens seem self-centered.
Teen boys also tend to have a sense of invulnerability – a belief that nothing bad can happen to them. This can be dangerous as teen boys often engage in riskier activities such as driving, dating, and challenging physical activities.
Some of the mental changes that developing teens experience are:
- Understanding abstract ideas, like higher math and moral philosophies
- Thinking about and questioning ideas and values without having their identities threatened
- Looking at problems from more than one point of view
- Gradually developing a more mature sense of identity and purpose
- Learning to have mature and healthy relationships
In early adolescence, teen boys tend to bond with a group of male peers, often acting and dressing like them. Later in adolescence, they usually expand their circle of friends to include romantic acquaintances.
It is normal for teen boys to separate their identities from their family and begin to develop their own identity. This can sometimes cause conflicts between teens and their parents as teens choose to act rebelliously and parents struggle to let their teens be more independent while still guiding them. Teen boys do still need and want consistent rules and boundaries, but also need space to learn who they are. Teens should try to talk with their parents, and parents should try to recognize and appreciate the person their teen is becoming, and gear their advice towards the more mature decisions developing teens have to make. Parents may want to give their teens more household responsibilities, in preparation for the responsibilities of adulthood.
Through the adolescent years, teen boys experience periods of awkwardness, followed by greater strength and coordination. They feel socially awkward, but usually mature into more confident young men. During this time, teens rely on their friends, but still need an open line of communication with, and love and support from, their parents. Though the adolescent years can be difficult for teens and their parents, it is a normal and important stage in developing into a healthy adult.
Teen Boys’ Development Sources:
- U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus
- Medical Encyclopedia, “Puberty and Adolescence” [online]
- WebMD “Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years” [online]