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Dev Psychol. 2010 Sep;46(5):1341-53. doi: 10.1037/a0020205.

Development's tortoise and hare: pubertal timing, pubertal tempo, and depressive symptoms in boys and girls.

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Department of Psychology, 12227 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1227, USA.


Although the sequence of pubertal maturation remains consistent across most individuals, the timing and tempo of development fluctuate widely. While past research has largely focused on the sequelae of pubertal timing, a faster tempo of maturation might also present special challenges to children for acclimating to new biological and social milestones. Using latent growth curve modeling, the present study investigated how pubertal tempo and pubertal timing predicted depressive symptoms over a 4-year period in a sample of children recruited from New York City area public schools. Rate of intraindividual change in parent-reported Tanner stages was used as an index of pubertal tempo, and more advanced Tanner development at an earlier chronological age was used as an index of pubertal timing. For girls (N = 138, M = 8.86 years old at Time 1), pubertal timing emerged as the most salient factor, and the tempo at which girls progressed through puberty was not significant. In boys (N = 128, M = 9.61 years old at Time 1), both timing and tempo of development were significant; notably, however, the effects of pubertal tempo were stronger than those of timing. These findings highlight the need to consider multiple sources of individual variability in pubertal development and suggest different pubertal challenges for boys and girls.

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