Puberty

At age 15, doctors recorded stage of development of four pubertal markers in boys: development of genitalia, visibility of pubic hair, visibility of axillary hair and whether the voice had broken. A pubertal stage variable was defined based on these criteria, with four groups from least to most advanced pubertal status

  • pre-adolescent: infantile genitalia or early development of genitalia but no other marker of maturation
  • early puberty: early development of genitalia with at least one other marker of maturation
  • advanced puberty: advanced development of genitalia but at least one other marker not fully mature
  • fully mature: all markers fully mature

Visibility of pubic hair was also recorded at age 11 years for both boys and girls.


During medical examinations performed in 1961 when cohort members were aged 14 or 15 years, school doctors established whether the female members of the study had started their periods and if so, the month and year of onset of the first period.  If a study member had not reached menarche by the time of the interview this was recorded. In 1994 (at age 48 years) women were asked to remember their age (in years) at menarche.

A set of variables using only information provided in 1961 has been derived. Age at menarche in months since birth and years are available.

A second set of age at menarche variables have been created which incorporate information from the women’s health questionnaire in 1994.  If women had a valid age at menarche recorded in 1960-1 this is used.  However, if women had not reached menarche by 1960-1 and reported an age at menarche in 1994 of > 13y the age of menarche they reported in 1994 is used. Age in months and years is available. This enlarged dataset is the usual one used for analyses. (see Cooper R, et al., Maturitas 2008 Dec 20;61(4):317-22. and dos Santos Silva et al., Int. J. Epidemiol. 2002;31(2): 405-412

At age 11 and 15 years, a variable indicating whether there was sign of breast development among girls was recorded.


Obtaining the standard puberty variables

  • You can obtain a list of the standard topic variables to use in an NSHD data sharing request by selecting the link at the end of this page.
  • The XML version of the link can be sent to the LHA as part of a data sharing request.
  • Simply use your browser's Save As facility to save the list of variables to a file on your computer.
  • You can then email the XML version to us in support of your application, or when you fill in the data access application form and it asks which variables you need, mention the 'puberty standard basket' along with any others.


HTML version of the standard variables to view

Download the XML for the puberty standard basket