Global Puberty Research
Very young adolescents are often overlooked in global health. There is minimal existing evidence about the social and physiological changes they experience maturing within different cultural and economic contexts, and the unique challenges they face for a healthy transition into young adulthood. Our global puberty research agenda has two key objectives:
To expand the evidence available on pubescent boys and girls globally;
To utilize this learning for developing educational resources, in the form of puberty education books for girls and boys aged 10-14.
Expanding the evidence base:
We conduct research focused specifically on the pubertal transition of girls and boys globally, including the impact of menstruation and other bodily changes on their sense of wellbeing, their access to education and their experiences of violence and peer pressures. We utilize participatory research methods to capture the voiced experiences of girls and boys and to understand the specific challenges they face as they navigate the transition from childhood to adolescence.
Select Publications (see Articles page for more):
- Sommer, M. & Schmitt, M.L. (2023). Taking Stock: An adaptable research and partnership model for developing puberty education in 10 countries. Global Health: Science and Practice, 11(2).
- Teizazu, H., Gruer, C., Mandara, E., Sommer, M. (2023). A faith-based approach for puberty education in Tanzania: An exploratory assessment. Frontiers in Reproductive Health, 5.
- Carney, A., Mulei, T., Kurao, D., Hagstrom, C., Sommer, M. (2022). "When I woke up I was so worried and ashamed, I thought it was a disease": Adolescent boys' transitions through puberty in Kenya. Frontiers in Reproductive Health, 7:1-11. DOI: 10.3389/frph.2022.956060.
- Blake, S., Boone, M., Yenew Kassa, A., & Sommer, M. (2017). Teaching Girls About Puberty and Menstrual Hygiene Management in Rural Ethiopia: Findings From a Pilot Evaluation. Journal of Adolescent Research, 0743558417701246.
- Ibitoye, M., Choi, C., Tai, H., Lee, G., & Sommer, M. (2017). Early menarche: A systematic review of its effect on sexual and reproductive health in low-and middle-income countries. PloS one, 12(6), e0178884.
- Sommer, M., Ackatia-Armah, N., Connolly, S., & Smiles, D. (2015). A comparison of the menstruation and education experiences of girls in Tanzania, Ghana, Cambodia and Ethiopia. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 45(4), 589-609.
- Sommer, M., Likindikoki, S., & Kaaya, S. (2014). Tanzanian Adolescent Boys’ Transitions Through Puberty: The Importance of Context. American journal of public health, 104(12), 2290-2297.
- Sommer, M. Structural factors influencing menstruating school girls’ health and well-being in Tanzania. (2012). Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education.
- Sommer, M. (2011). An Early Window of Opportunity for Promoting Girls Health: Policy Implications of the Girls Puberty Book Project in Tanzania. Global Journal of Health Education and Promotion, 14(1).
Developing educational resources:
In collaboration with Grow and Know (a small non-profit that develops puberty books), we develop puberty content for girls and boys. The books are grounded in the social, cultural, and economic context of each country and incorporate factual guidance alongside the real-life stories of girls and boys captured through research. Mailman graduates have been involved in supporting several of the books including assisting with data collection and the development of the books.
To date, we have developed puberty books in ten countries: Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Pakistan, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, and the USA. Learn more about our book development model here.
- Cambodia (girls' book & boys' book)
- Ethiopia (girls' book)
- Ghana (girls' book)
- Kenya (girls' book & boys' book)
- Laos (girls' book)
- Madagascar (girls' book)
- Pakistan (girls' book)
- Tanzania (girls' book, boys' book, older adolescents' book)
- Sierra Leone (girls' book & boys' book)
- USA (girls' book)