, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 315-324

Developmental Markers in Adolescence: Implications for Studies of Pubertal Processes

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There is inconsistency in the outcome measures of biological and psychosocial studies using measures of puberty as a predictor. For example, some studies show that maturational timing may have differential influences (positive, negative, or no effect) depending on the specific disorder, dimension of measure, and gender. Other studies have suggested that some effects may be more directly linked to pubertal stage or hormone concentrations rather than timing per se. This study outlines several conceptual and methodological issues that may be relevant to addressing these inconsistencies, in the context of examining data from a study of maturational hormones obtained from a unique longitudinal cohort of 24 girls (age 10.0 ± 1.6 years) and 36 boys (age 10.4 ± 1.6 years) in the early part of puberty, where the developmental trajectory of these hormones were tracked annually in 65% of the sample. We explored the contributions of measures of pubertal growth and sociodemographic factors on hormone concentrations. In brief, it appears that no single measure best captures the maturational processes during puberty and suggests that multiple processes are occurring in parallel. Several conceptual and methodological implications are discussed that may guide investigators in interpreting existing studies of pubertal timing and behavior as well as in conducting future studies.