Delayed Sexual Development
(Delayed Puberty; Delayed Sexual Maturation)
Girls enter puberty between the ages of 8-14. Boys enter this stage between the ages of 9-14. When this stage is late, it is called delayed sexual development.
This condition can be caused by:
- Constitutional delay—some children simply take longer than their peers; they will catch up at some point
- Chromosomal abnormalities:
- Kallmann syndrome
- Hypopituitarism caused by infection, trauma, and central nervous system lesions
Factors that may increase the chance of delayed puberty include:
- Family history
- Underlying disease:
- Other factors:
Complications From Cystic Fibrosis
One common symptom for both boys and girls is shortness in height. Other symptoms by gender include:
Symptoms in boys:
- Lack of testicular enlargement by age 14
- Lack of pubertal maturation by age 14
- Sex organs that don’t completely develop within 5 years after they started to develop
Symptoms in girls:
- Lack of breast development by age 13
- No breast tissue or pubic hair by the age of 14
- Lack of menstruation for five years or more after initial breast development
- Failure to menstruate by age 15-16
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child's milestones and growth record will be reviewed. An x-ray of the left wrist bones may be taken to assess bone age. This will help to assess if bone development is normal for your child’s current level of pubertal development.
Your child's hormone levels may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with:
- MRI scan
- Pelvic ultrasound (female)
There is often no treatment for those who are healthy and just starting later than their peers. They will continue to be monitored.
Other treatment depends on the cause. For those who have a chronic underlying disease, treatment is aimed at the specific condition. After the condition is treated, puberty often begins on its own.
For others treatments may include:
Sex Hormone Replacement
Sex hormones will help begin sexual development. They may be given to those with chromosomal abnormalities. This can include Turner syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome. Hormones may also be given to teens who are severely delayed or overly stressed by their lack of development.
Counseling may be suggested for adolescents who are struggling with the delay. This may help the child cope with social pressures.
Most causes of delayed sexual development cannot be prevented. To help reduce the chance, make sure your child maintains a healthy lifestyle. This includes making sure your child is eating well and getting nutrients. Make sure any underlying illness is treated.
Family Doctor—The American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Blondell RD, Foster MB, et al. Disorders of puberty. Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(1):209-218.
Delayed puberty. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/puberty/Pages/Delayed-Puberty.aspx. Updated May 11, 2013. Accessed June 4, 2014.
Delayed puberty. Nemours Kid's Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/changing_body/delayed_puberty.html. Updated August 2011. Accessed June 4, 2014.
Female delayed puberty. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 15, 2013. Accessed June 4, 2014.
Male delayed puberty. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 7, 2012. Accessed June 4, 2014.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.