Penn State researchers contribute to special section on puberty research

Puberty is a distinct developmental period with unique research opportunities, according to a group of current and former Penn State researchers who collaborated on several papers that comprise a special section on puberty in the current Journal of Research on Adolescence (JRA).

“With fewer papers being published on puberty, and the attention on puberty dwindling in professional meetings, we wanted to find a way to encourage the early career scholars to foster research in this area,” said Lorah Dorn, professor of nursing at Penn State.

After an organizational meeting, researchers presented their outcomes in the form of nine position papers, which are presented in this special section of JRA. The co-editors include Dorn, Elizabeth Susman, emeritus professor of biobehavioral health, Lisa Crockett, former faculty member in human development and family studies, and Anne Petersen, former dean of the College of Health and Human Development.

According to Dorn, along with collaborator Susman, the section emphasizes puberty as an important component of science. “Puberty is both universal and global, but in humans it differs both geographically and culturally,” Dorn explained. “Puberty is also interdisciplinary, as many factors can influence puberty, while the effects of puberty extend beyond adolescence and can influence adult health and disease risk.”

Topics in this special section are diverse and include emerging genetic-environmental  complexities of puberty, understanding the role of puberty in the developing brain, how puberty impacts health and wellbeing across the lifespan, and exploring puberty in in understudied populations.

Another unique aspect of the special section is the strong Penn State presence, as ten of the authors are either current or former Penn State faculty members or graduate students.

“The papers fulfill our initial goal of capturing the innovations in puberty research, and hopefully will act as a springboard for advancing the next generation of researchers in adolescence and puberty and will encourage researchers in other disciplines to consider incorporating puberty in their studies,” said Dorn.

Support was provided by the Society for Research on Adolescence and Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute.