Rethinking puberty: Experts call for changes in the approach to research


March 15, 2019

Julie Deardorff, an associate professor of maternal, child, and adolescent health at School of Public Health, co-authored two papers in a special section of The Journal of Research on Adolescence, published this week. The special issue focuses on the biobehavioral developmental science of puberty, including topics like the genetic-environmental complexities of puberty, the role of puberty in the developing brain, puberty’s impacts on health and wellbeing across the lifespan, and puberty in understudied populations.

“This special issue includes ten articles by top puberty researchers who are all seeking to push the field forward in a number of critically important ways,” says Deardorff. “Our articles highlight key findings from past research and point out glaring gaps that need to be addressed to move the field forward in dynamic and important ways.”

The first of Deardorff’s two papers considers the several implications that puberty may hold for understudied groups, in order to understand how culture and ethnicity are critical to the study of puberty and mental health.

“It’s impossible to develop effective programs and policies when we know so little about puberty among groups like boys, LGBTQ youth, and racial or ethnic minorities,” says Deardorff.

The second paper examines the role of puberty education programs and policies in adolescent development. This paper emphasizes the need for more rigorous evaluations of these programs and policies in order to sustain and improve their effectiveness.

Deardorff’s co-authors include Lindsay Hoyt, a former Robert Wood Johnson Health Foundation scholar from UC Berkeley, and Megan Johnson, a UC Berkeley research scientist and former postdoctoral researcher.