Secondary sex characteristic

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A secondary sex characteristic is an attribute of puberty that is not directly related to sexual reproduction, in contrast to primary sex characteristics. Secondary sex characteristics are the aspects of adolescents' bodies that make them appear more male or female.

These characteristics are determined by the hormones developed—estrogens produce estradiol, which is released by the ovaries, and androgens produce testosterone, which is released by the testes. Though both men and women have estrogen and androgen, it is the abundance of estradiol or testosterone that change the individual.[1]

In humans

Sexual differences in humans begin during gestation. This is when the gonads are formed. The physical structure of the body changes in preadolescents.


  • Facial hair
  • More angular jaw
  • Deepening voice
  • Body hair (armpits and chest)
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Pubic hair


  • Fat on the breasts
  • Body hair (armpits)
  • Greater definition of the waist
  • Fat on the hips
  • Pubic hair

See also


  1. Grison, Sarah, and Michael S. Gazzaniga. Psychology in Your Life. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2017.