Maternal and Child Health Bureau HomeModule IntroTable of ContentsGlossary
Training Module: Adolescent Physical Development

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Adolescence : the psychosocial transition from childhood to adulthood, and is linked to the physical transformation of puberty. It is a highly variable and culturally-defined developmental process.

Adult height : approximately 15% of the final adult height is added during puberty.

Body fat : the component of body weight that is most closely associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Excessive body fat, also called obesity, is a major public health concern.

Bright Futures: Nutrition, 3rd edition : a component of the Bright Futures health supervision guidelines.

Fat-free body mass : the other component of body weight (to body fat), including musculoskeletal elements often associated with health and fitness. For example, some athletes with a large amount of muscle may be "overweight" according to weight charts, or even weight for height charts, such as the BMI, but much of the "excess" weight is in the form of fat-free musculoskeletal tissue. Therefore, they would not be considered "overfat" or "obese." Extremely overweight individuals have an excess of both fat-free and fat body mass, but it is the latter that imparts health risks.

Gynecomastia : occurs in males as a result of sensitivity of breast tissue to sex hormones produced during puberty. This growth of glandular tissue needs to be differentiated from growth of body fat that includes the breast as well as other areas.

Health supervision guidelines : Bright Futures for Infants, Children and Adolescents is a comprehensive set of health supervision guidelines that was developed by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau -- in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Health Care Financing Administration.

Puberty : the physical transformation of a boy into a man and a girl into a woman. Although the timing of the onset of puberty is highly variable from individual to individual, the sequence of events is highly predictable and independent of psychosocial influences.

Reproductive organs : the most dramatic changes during puberty relate to the reproductive organs. The male and female sex hormones that they produce cause the majority of changes associated with puberty, including breast development and menstruation in girls, enlargement of the penis and testicles in boys, and the development of pubic hair and the growth spurt in both boys and girls.

School-based health clinics : provide health supervision to adolescents who might not otherwise have access to primary care services. The majority of services are provided by nurses who work in collaboration with physicians.