Oestrogens induce the development of female reproductive tissues. Endogenous human oestrogens include oestradiol, oestrone and oestriol. Oestrogen signalling in target tissues is dependent on the tissue concentration of oestrogen and the interaction of oestrogen receptors with an array of cell-specific co-regulator proteins. The diverse mechanisms of oestrogen signalling are complex and incompletely understood. In puberty, oestrogen is derived from both gonadal and peripheral sources. Originally, oestrogen was only thought to drive feminization in females; now, oestrogen is known to be important for pubertal development of males as well. Oestrogen is required for normal maturation of the neuroendocrine-gonadal axis and bone in both sexes, and a variety of other tissues are also responsive to oestrogen. Abnormal puberty can be associated with either excessive or inadequate oestrogen production. Girls deficient in oestrogen should receive replacement in physiological doses. Aromatase inhibitors and anti-oestrogens may prove to be useful therapeutic tools in some types of abnormal puberty.