Turkana girl's apron from KenyaTurkana girl's apron from Kenya
uberty is the transitional period in life when a child becomes an adult. The child not only develops and transforms physically during this time, becoming sexually mature, but also undergoes psychological and social changes. In some cultures, in order to become a full member of society, a child must adopt an adult status with the responsibilities and rights that entails. This rite of passage can be marked with initiation ceremonies or the formal recognition of biological milestones such as the appearance of male facial hair or a girl's first menstruation. Events such as the Jewish bar mitzvah, Christian Confirmation (Chrismation) or even high-school graduation are all rites of passage commonly associated with puberty in the modern world.

In anthropological terms, most rites of passage have three distinct phases: the separation phase, an ambiguous or 'in-between' stage, and the reincorporation stage. An example of this is the kinaaldá, the traditional coming-of-age rite of the Navajo Nation of the American southwest. Proper recognition of a girl's status is important in the matrilineal Navajo society and the occasion of a girl's first period is considered sacred and a time for rejoicing. The girl is separated from the main group for five days and four nights, and this has variously been interpreted as an announcement of her new ability to bear children (and, therefore, eligibility for marriage); to protect the community against the volatile power of menstrual blood; and to teach the girl about being an adult. An older woman (not her mother) accompanies her to act as her instructor, and the night of her return is marked by those assembled in the singing of special songs.

Another feature of initiation may be body modification, taking the form of scarification, tattooing or circumcision, among others. Male circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the penis and is practised widely around the world for religious and cultural reasons. Among Jewish cultures it is carries out soon after birth but among the Kikuyu and Tiati Pokot peoples of Kenya, it marks the end of childhood. Female circumcision is less common but is still practised in some African and Arab cultures. The two are quite different in their meanings, male circumcision often functioning as a test of manhood, and female circumcision effecting social control over a girl's sexual behaviours.

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