Doctor Betti
Dr. Betti Hertzberg Ressler is a Board Certified Pediatrician on staff at Miami Children's Hospital. Dr. Hertzberg developed the toilet training video "Let's Go Potty." She is the co-author of "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Children."

Early Puberty

Question: I am very concerned because my son, who is only 9 years old, is already getting pubic and underarm hair. I feel this is happening way too soon and I don't know if it's "normal" or if I should take him to the doctor. His father and I didn't start developing in this way until we were 12 years old, so my son's body changes aren't in his genes. He just finished the third grade and he is ADD and developmentally behind his peers. The changes in his body are confusing him greatly. He is just not ready for this yet. Is there a medical problem causing this? Should I take him to the doctor? Are there medications that can delay development until a normal age? I am very concerned and would appreciate any answers you could give me. Thank you very much for your time. - Cris

Answer: As always, your son's pediatrician will be in the best position to evaluate and determine if your child is developing too rapidly.

There are different reasons for the so called "premature development" in children. The majority are what is known as "Idiopathic." This means that there is no organic cause that can be found. Depending on how far advanced your son is, puberty in a 9-year-old boy is seen with more frequency these days. Before significant prematurity can be determined, your son's pediatrician would look at all areas of growth, including growth charts and other signs of puberty to make sure that there are no other areas of concern. Although you say that neither you or your husband developed early, remember that we don't pick our genes. Genes go back many generations, and we never know when they'll pop up!

How your son views all these changes in his body may depend much on how you react to the changes in his body. Discuss your concerns with his doctor. Let your son know that the changes he is experiencing are part of growing up. Be supportive. Be as honest as you can in the explanations that you give him. The whole family will benefit.

Another area to look into is environment, including medications. Although I haven't seen any relation of premature puberty associated with medication used for ADD, your son's pediatrician would be in the best position to discuss that point with you.

Dr. Betti

Also see:

  • Plantar's warts
  • Is it safe for an 11-year-old to use tampons?
  • Ask Dr. Betti your questions
  • Recently asked questions

    This information is not intended to be a substitute for visiting your pediatrician. If you or your child has specific concerns, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.