Tanner Stages

Other Known Aliases – sexual maturity rating

Definitionscale of physical development in children, adolescents, and adults based on primary and secondary sex characteristics

Clinical Significance every patient will progress through each of the five stages during development, but due to innate individual variability, the rate and timing of each of the stages is highly variable. There are both a male and female scale and evaluates breast and testicular size, genitals, and pubic hair distribution.

HistoryNamed after James Mourilyan Tanner (1920-2010), a British pediatric endocrinologist who received his medical doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1944, as well as a fellowship in endocrinology from Johns Hopkins as a result of a Rockefeller exchange grant program. A supurb hurdler and athlete prior to WWII, he likely would have competed in the in 1940 Olympics. Following his training stateside, he would return to England to oversee a national study on the effects of malnutrition on children. While documenting and analyzing the data, he noticed a trend of secondary physical characteristics as children and adolescents developing into adulthood. This led to a 20-year longitudinal study on human development and the publication of his eponymous staging system in 1962 in his classic textbook “Growth at Adolescence”.


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  2. Bartolucci S, Forbis P.  Stedman’s Medical Eponyms.  2nd ed.  Baltimore, MD; LWW.  2005.
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  5. Up To Date. www.uptodate.com
  6. James Mourilyan Tanner. Royal College of Physicians. https://history.rcplondon.ac.uk/inspiring-physicians/james-mourilyan-tanner
  7. Growth at Adolescence, 2nd ed. (1962) Oxford: Blackwell Scientific.

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