Monday, December 22, 2014

Self-assessing Puberty in Teens: Is Accuracy a Sign of Maturation as Well?

How often do we ask our teen patients if they have begun to show signs of puberty or where they are in their own pubertal development? Should we trust their self-assessment?

Rasmussen et al. (doi:10.1542/peds.2014-0793) opted to answer this question by offering almost 900 children and early teens and their parents a questionnaire asking about breast, genital and pubic hair development after being shown drawings of Tanner stages. They were then examined by physicians blinded to the self-assessment. Neither the boys nor the girls were very accurate in their self-assessments, and while parents did better than their children, their batting average was also off.

The crux of this study is that while self-assessment is important, a physical examination to determine pubertal staging is just as important and together they can frame a good discussion of adolescent development and expectations for pre-teens, teens, and their parents. The reasons why younger children underestimate their level of puberty relative to their peers, and older children overestimate their pubertal development relative to peers makes for some interesting discussion when you read this study and see what develops.

Have you found your teen patients also are unreliable in assessing their own pubertal stages? Share your thoughts by responding to this blog or via an e-letter or on Facebook or Twitter.

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