Puberty, Developmental Processes, and Health Interventions

Authors: Russell Viner, Nicholas B. Allen, George Patton

Adolescence is increasingly recognized as a critical or “sensitive” period in the life course, a time when rapid development of the brain, body, and behaviors opens a window of opportunity for interventions that may affect health throughout life.  Puberty results in very rapid somatic growth, brain development, sexual maturation, and attainment of reproductive capacity. It is accompanied by final maturation of multiple organ systems and major changes in the central nervous system and in psychosocial behavior (Patton and Viner 2007). The discovery of continued brain development through adolescence is one of the great advances of neuroscience in the past 20 years. A dramatic spurt in brain development begins during adolescence and continues until the mid-20s, with marked development of both cortical and subcortical structures (Goddings and others 2012).