Sex Differences in Prevalence
Girls are more likely to experience early puberty than boys are. A major reason for this difference is that girls generally undergo puberty earlier than boys normally. Girls also exhibit a larger range of puberty onset (9-16 years of age versus 13-15 years of age for boys), making earlier onset more likely.
Sex Differences in Cause
When boys do experience early puberty, it’s usually not because of the many psychological causes that have been identified in girls. Instead, boys are more likely to have biological causes for their precocious puberty than girls. In particular, boys with precocious puberty often have abnormalities in their endocrine system, such as issues with the adrenal gland or testicular functioning.
Sex Differences in Type of Effects
For many decades researchers believed that boys experience benefits from early puberty while girls experience negative consequences from maturing early. In particular, scientists believed that boys benefit socially from being physically developed because they are likely to be viewed as leaders among their peers. In contrast, girls may feel embarrassed by their early curves and be unready to cope with early sexual advances. While these ideas may be partly correct, recent research indicates that boys who undergo early puberty do have increased levels of psychological distress and adjustment issues compared to their normally developing peers, just like early-maturing girls do.
In other words, boys do not seem to simply benefit from early puberty while girls suffer.