Could puberty get any more awkward? Turns out, yes. Writer Patrick Burleigh started going through puberty as a toddler. He had pubic hair before he was two years old and a mustache by middle school. All of this was thanks to a rare genetic mutation that causes testotoxicosis, also known as precocious puberty. From the moment he was born, abnormally high levels of testosterone coursed through his body, just as it had in his father’s body, his grandfather’s body, and his great-grandfather’s body. On this week’s episode, Patrick’s premature coming of age story helps us understand just why puberty is so awkward for all of us, and whether and how it helps forge us into the adults we all become.

Special thanks to Craig Cox, Nick Burleigh, and Alyssa Voss at the NIH.


Reported by - Latif Nasser
with help from - Kelsey Padgett, Ekedi Fausther-Keeys, and Alyssa Jeong Perry
Produced by - Pat Walters, Alex Neason, and Alyssa Jeong Perry 
with help from - Ekedi Fausther-Keyes and Matt Kielty
with mixing help from - Arianne Wack
Fact-checking by - Diane A. Kelly
and Edited by  - Pat Walters


Music -  
"The Light" by Cate Le Bon & Group Listening.

Articles -

To read Patrick’s own writing about his experience with precocious puberty and to see photos of him as a child, check out his article in The Cut, “A 4-Year-Old Trapped in a Teenager’s Body” (

In her spare time, our fact checker Diane Kelly is also a comparative anatomist, and you can hear her TEDMED talk, “What We Didn’t Know about Penis Anatomy” (

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Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.