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Voice changes during puberty

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Boys and puberty

Intellectually, I knew my son's voice was changing, that is was getting deeper. How could it not? He's a teenager now, stretching toward six feet tall and experiencing every other element of adolescence. But I live with his voice day-to-day - or at least his grunts. It's easy for me as a mom to just not think about it.

Then the other day I called him on his cell phone to let him know where to meet me to be picked up. Only he didn't answer. His voice mail answered - and you could have knocked me over with a feather. His voice mail greeting was recorded over a year ago, and it sounds completely different. In fact, for a fraction of a second, I wondered it I'd dialed the wrong number! Then when I realized, no, I'd used speed dial and it definitely was my son's voice, I was shocked by how much his voice has changed over the last year.

What causes the voice to change?

During puberty, the larynx (the "voice box") gets larger and the vocal cords get longer and thicker - all thanks to testosterone. It's air passing over these bigger vocal cords that make a voice - and make a voice deeper. Girls also experience a deepening of the voice in adolescence, but not to the same extent.

If you've ever watched old "Brady Bunch" reruns, there's that episode where Peter's voice starts to change, squeaking and cracking in unexpected ways. Sure, that can happen. But the change can also happen gradually - almost imperceptibly - so squeaks and cracks don't happen.

Along with the changes on the inside, as boys grow you can see the changes in the neck. The larger larynx is more prominent on the front of the necks of older boys and men than it is on younger boys, or girls and women.

Self-consciousness

As with many aspects of puberty, a boy may feel self-conscious about the changes happening to his voice. It's absolutely natural to feel awkward and unsure. There are so many changes that happen with puberty - and so fast! - that it can take a while to grow back into your own self. Boys hopefully can take reassurance from the fact that every boy goes through this on the way to becoming a man, and they all seem to have survived.

Because of the self-consciousness issue, I decided not to point out the old voice mail greeting to my son. If I did he would be sure to change it immediately! Instead, I'm plotting attempts at getting a copy of that greeting to keep for posterity. I may not be able to stop my little boy from growing into a man (nor do I want to!) but it would be nice to hang on to the littleness a little while longer.

For more on parenting teens:

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