Abstract This study investigates basal levels of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and their relation to gender and pubertal development, in healthy children and adolescents. Salivary cortisol and DHEA levels were examined in 129 normally developing subjects aged eight to 16 years. Subjects provided morning (0800 h) and evening (2000 h) saliva samples over four consecutive days. Pubertal stage was assessed using Tanner stage sketches, and subjects were grouped according to their general status of pubertal development (pre-early puberty: Tanner stage<III; mid-post puberty: Tanner stage>II). Results showed that morning salivary cortisol in mid-postpubertal girls was greater than in mid-postpubertal boys, but not pre-early pubertal girls and boys. Mean levels of salivary DHEA were greater in mid-postpubertal boys and girls than in pre-early pubertal boys and girls. Changes in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis function that occur during puberty may have implications for immediate and long-term adolescent health.