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J Early Adolesc. 2017 Aug;37(7):925-947. doi: 10.1177/0272431616642323. Epub 2016 Apr 13.

"When You're a Baby You Don't Have Puberty": Understanding of Puberty and Human Reproduction in Late Childhood and Early Adolescence.

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Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.
Education Development Center, New York, NY, USA.
Paradigm Research & Consulting, Jackson Heights, NY, USA.
Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.


Basic knowledge of human reproduction can help youth prepare for puberty and make later classes focused on advanced reproductive health topics manageable. With the intention of potentially informing the creation of learning materials, we conducted a needs assessment among children ages 7 to 12 in our suburban Chicago community to ascertain their current understanding of, and beliefs and misconceptions about, human reproduction, and to determine their needs for additional reproductive health education. We held qualitative focus group interviews with local children. Participants primarily reported learning about these topics from their parents prior to receiving school-based education in fifth grade. Their level of understanding was relatively low. They had little knowledge of internal sexual organs, expressed a range of beliefs about conception ranging from inaccurate to accurate but incomplete, and voiced concerns about transitioning into adolescence. This suggests a need for additional resources that provide comprehensible descriptions of reproductive health processes and mitigate puberty-related concerns.


conception; menstruation; puberty; reproduction; reproductive anatomy

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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