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Somatic Development of Adolescent Boys

By Eliza Martinez ; Updated June 13, 2017

Somatic development refers to physical maturation, and much of that maturation occurs during adolescence. As the parent of a male, it might be intimidating or embarrassing to discuss such issues with your son. It's important to do so, however, because you want your son to have a healthy view of the sexual urges that develop with maturation and to understand how his body is changing. Understanding somatic development makes it easier to assess your child's development and address any issues that arise.

When It Happens

Each adolescent boy will mature at his own pace, according to the "Delhi Psychiatry Journal." In general, it begins around age 12, when a boy's curiosity about sex increases and his body begins to turn into an adult's. As your boy gets a little older, at the start of high school and beyond, he is likely to become interested in sex and talking about sexual topics with his friends, though you might not realize this is happening because he'll probably keep it under wraps. At the same time, he is undergoing significant physical changes, which you won't be able to miss.

Changes That Occur

When your son reaches puberty, his body will change. This is likely to make him more modest around other people because he knows that other boys and girls are noticing and judging his looks. Your adolescent son will probably have a height growth spurt and his voice will deepen. He'll begin to sprout body hair and he'll probably sweat a lot more than when he was younger. Hormonal changes will cause him to smell when he sweats. His genitals will get bigger and will probably reach their adult size by the time he's done with high school. Your son's muscle and fat distribution will change, and he'll begin looking more like a man than a boy. The hormones involved in these changes also increase your son's sexual awareness and wet dreams, masturbation and an interest in sex are natural by products of these changes.

Factors in Somatic Development

Several factors play a role in your son's somatic development, including hormones, genetics and environment, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health. The size of you and your son's other parent contribute to his final height. If you are both on the shorter end of the spectrum, he is likely to be, too. At the same time, genetics also affects your son's rate of sexual development, according to the "Journal of Adolescent Health." If one of you was a late bloomer, your son might be behind his friends in terms of somatic development. Nutrition factors in to somatic development as well. If your son eats a mostly varied and nutritious diet, he'll look healthier and will reach his full growth potential. On the other hand, a poor diet might interfere with his bone growth and hormone secretion.

What to Talk About

Ignoring your son's somatic development isn't a good idea for several reasons. He needs to understand what is happening to his body from someone who won't judge him. Tell him what to expect and how to deal with it. For example, mention that he's growing body hair and that it's normal. Have a discussion about appropriate sexual behavior at his age and what might happen if he makes the wrong decisions. This includes sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and even the development of a poor reputation. Kids Health suggests starting early because you don't know what he's hearing from media and friends, which might not be correct or in line with your family's morals and values.

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