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Tanner Stages in Males and Females

Tanner stages

Tanner stages, also known as sexual maturity ratings, are sexual development stages that a child undergoes during puberty. It is a system for identifying and tracking the progression of children’s secondary sex characteristics during puberty. Tanner stage was discovered by James M. Tanner, a British paediatric endocrinologist and Marshall  WA, during a longitudinal study conducted in England from the 1940s to the 1960s. Marshall and Tanner developed tanner scales for pubic hair in both males and females but separate scales for the development of external genitalia: the phallus, scrotum, and testes in males; and the breast in females.

Understanding the tanner stages, in general, will help you to know what to expect when your child reaches each stage and how you can walk your child through each of the tanner stages.

Tanner proposed a scale, which is generally accepted, to explain the onset and progression of pubertal changes in boys and girls. They are rated on a 5 stage scale. Boys are grouped under genital development and pubic hair growth, and girls are grouped under breast development and pubic hair growth.

Tanner stages in Boys and Girls 

Tanner Stage1 (Preadolescent)

The first of the tanner stages is the preadolescent stage. At this stage, the body is getting preparing for changes and development. Though there are no visible physical changes, The brain begins to send signals to the body, preparing it for physical changes.



  • Usually starts at about 8 years old in girls.
  •  Only the papilla is elevated over the level of the chest wall.
  • Vellus hair (short, thin, light-colored, and barely noticeable) will start developing over the pubic area without extending over the anterior wall.
  • There is no development of androgen-sensitive pubic hair (sexual hair).


  • Usually starts between ages  9 and 10
  •  The testes, scrotal sac, and penis are the same size and proportion as in early childhood.
  • Vellus hair develops over the pubic area without extending over the anterior wall. There is no development of androgen-sensitive pubic hair (sexual hair)

Tanner Stage 2

The brain is prepared for new changes hence there are visible changes in the body for both boys and girls at this stage.


  • Tanner stage 2 starts between the ages of 9 and 11 years.
  • Breast Budding stage (Breasts are in different sizes, so it is normal if one bud is bigger than the other)
  •  Increase in the breasts and papillae may occur as tiny mounds, with some papillae elevated above the level of the chest wall.
  • The diameter of the areolae (the darker area around the nipple) widens
  • Sexual hair becomes noticeably darker, coarser, and curlier.
  • The hair spreads sparsely at the tip of the vulva
  • Increase in the uterus



  • Usually begins at age 11
  •  Long, downy pigmented hair appears sparsely and is only slightly curly or straight.
  • Hair is primarily visible at the base of the penis.
  • The scrotum and testes enlarge.
  • The texture of the scrotal skin changes.
  • There is a possibility of Redness of the scrotal skin.

Tanner Stage 3

At this stage, the changes in boys and girls become more visible.


  • Usually starts around  age 12
  • Breasts and areolae continue to expand, despite the lack of contour separation.
  • The appearance of sparse, long, pigmented, downy hair that is straight or only slightly curled.
  • These downy hairs are mostly found on the labia.
  • Hair begins to grow under the armpits.
  • Pimples may first appear on the face and back
  • Fat starts to accumulate in the hips and thighs which leads to the added weight in this part of the body.



  • Pubic hair becomes darker, coarser, and curlier than stage 2.
  •  It is now distributed over the junction of the pubes.
  •  Increase in the size of the penis, initially in length, then with some circumference increase.
  • The testes and scrotum start growing faster.
  •  Boys may experience wet dreams at this stage.
  • Body odor may start. or during tanner stage 4


Tanner Stage 4

As puberty reaches its peak, changes in boys and girls become very visible.



  • This stage usually starts around  age 13
  • The areolae and papillae rise above the level of the breasts, forming secondary mounds of the areolae and papillae with increased development of breast tissue as a whole
  • The hair distribution is adult-like (Pubic hair thickens.), but the total quantity is reduced.
  • Many girls experience their first period between the ages of 12 and 14, but it can occur earlier.
  • Growth in height will slow to about 2 to 3 inches per year.



  • This stage usually starts between the ages 13-14
  • There is no spread to the inner surface of the thighs.
  •  Distribution of hair has now become matured, but it is still considerably less than it is seen in adults.
  • The penis is significantly enlarged in length and circumference
  • The testes and scrotum continue to enlarge during this stage
  • Scrotal skin has darkened noticeably.
  • Wet dreams (ejaculation at night)
  • Change in voice which may crack
  • Development of larger Muscles
  • Hair begins to grow in the armpits which may cause body odor
  • A deeper voice becomes ingrained making it deeper.
  • Acne breakouts are possible.


Tanner Stage 5

This is the final stage of maturation. For boys, full growth may not be achieved until age 18.


  • Usually occurs around  age 15
  • Formation of matured breasts
  •  The areolae reduce at the final stage.
  • The papillae may protrude somewhat above the curve of the breasts.
  • The hair is adult in quantity and type, with an inverse triangle of the classically feminine type.
  • There is a spread to the thighs’ inner surface but not above the base of the inverse triangle.
  • Menstrual periods become regular after six months to two years.
  • Reproductive organs and genitals have completed development.
  • In shape, the hips, thighs, and buttocks form shape



  • Starts around age 15
  • In terms of size and shape, the genitalia is fully developed.
  • The distribution of hair is adult in quantity and type. It is found on the inner surface of the thighs as well.
  • The testicles, penis, and scrotum continue to grow in size, and the scrotum becomes darker in color.
  • Facial hair will begin to grow, and some boys will need to start shaving.
  • Growth continues till age 18 for most boys.



The Tanner stages are primary stages in the life of your child as it relates to major developments in the child’s lifetime. At every period, it is important you are there for them, supporting them and helping them understand every stage and what it means for them. Communication is vital at this stage for them.


Additional Source

Vermont Department of Health (Health Screening Recommendations for Children & Adolescents


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