Common Growth Concerns

Can You Predict The Height of Your Child?

As a parent, you may find yourself wondering how tall your child will be once they grow up. This  is an especially poignant question when a child seems to be growing at an unusual pace, whether too fast or slow when compared to other kids of the same age. The best person to ask about your child’s growth is their pediatrician. A pediatrician is able to track your child’s individual growth pattern, taking into account that each child is unique. 

They may also be able to provide you with a general idea of how tall your child will be once they grow up. But if you want more information or to figure it out yourself,  there are two methods that can help  predict a child’s height. However, if you choose to use these methods, keep in mind that neither one is proven to be consistently accurate due to the number of different factors that contribute to an individual’s height when fully grown.

Two Years Times Two Method

A simple method to predict height is double the child’s height at age 2. However, most girls develop more quickly so doubling their height at 18 months can also be used to estimate how tall they will be.  While this method has been around for a number of years and is a quick way to get a rough estimate, there is no scientific research to support the accuracy, or lack thereof, of this formula.

Mid-Parental Method

A slightly more complex method of estimation is the mid-parental method which averages uses the height of each parent to predict the child’s adult height. However, this formula still only provides a rough estimate with a margin of error around four inches. Generally speaking, taller parents typically yield taller children and shorter parents yield shorter children.

To use the mid-parental method add the mother’s height and father’s height together in centimeters. To that number either add 13 centimeters if calculating for a male child or subtract 13 centimeters if calculating for a female child. Finally, divide the resulting number by 2 and you should be left with a height in centimeters that is within range of your child’s height in adulthood.

For example, if a mother’s height is five feet, five inches (167.64 centimeters) and a father’s height is six feet, three inches (192.024 centimeters) you would calculate their daughter’s predicted height as follows:

 

First add the parental heights together: 359.664 centimeters

Since their child is a female, subtract 13: 346.664 centimeters

Finally, divide by two: 173.332 centimeters or 5 feet, 7 inches

If this that method was completely accurate all siblings of the same gender boys or girls of a given father and mother would reach have reached the same adult height - which is usually not the case. This equation is designed to just provides a rough estimate.

How is Height Predicted by Pediatricians?

A more accurate method to predict a child’s height is by determining his/her “bone age” via an X-ray of the hand or wrist. This procedure  is not routinely done, but performed when a medical problem is suspected. The X-ray imagery enables a pediatrician see how much growth your child has left and to calculate his/her adult height prediction using a special prediction table.

What Factors Influence Height?

The most influential factor when it comes to height is family history and genetics. Height and growth patterns typically run in families. As a result of this connection, your pediatrician may ask about the  growth pattern of both parents. If you were short in elementary school but kept growing into your high school years, it is likely that your children may do the same. Knowing family patterns can help your pediatrician in properly monitoring and assessing your child’s growth.

While genes are the primary factor in determining your child’s height as an adult, they are by no means the only factor. A number of other elements can play a role in your child’s growth, such as:

  • Nutrition/Diet - In order for your child to grow to their full potential, they must receive adequate nutrition to be able to support the growth of healthy bones, organs, and muscles. A healthy diet includes a mix of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals and is essential to attain maximum height. Specific vitamins and minerals particularly important for growth include  vitamins C, A, and D, calcium, iron, and zinc.
  • Weight - Overweight children are frequently taller than children of the same age while underweight children are usually shorter. The differences in height of thin or overweight children do not always carry into adulthood, but could be the result of an advanced bone age which causes the child to reach mature height earlier than their peers.
  • Medications - Certain medications, particularly extended use of corticosteroids, are known to slow or stunt growth.
  • Hormones - Hormone  imbalances can result in slower or faster than expected growth, particularly those related to the thyroid or growth hormone levels. 
  • Health Conditions - Some chronic health conditions can also result in irregular growth patterns. Children with various chronic diseases (heart, lungs, kidneys and intestines) , children with untreated celiac disease, may be shorter than expected.
  • Genetic Conditions - Specific genetic conditions are known to impact a child’s height throughout life. Children with Down Syndrome, Noonan Syndrome, or Turner Syndrome are typically shorter than anticipated, while those with Marfan Syndrome, are unusually tall.
  • Behavioral Factors - A child’s sleep patterns and exercise routine may also have an impact on height.
  • Psychological Well-Being - The mental state of a child can have an impact on the child’s ability to grow. Uncontrolled stress  can slow or stunt growth .

It’s clear that there are a variety of aspects throughout your child’s life that can influence his or her ability to grow most of which may be out of your control as a parent. Instead of focusing on each factor individually, try to concentrate on improving your child’s overall health. Providing a healthy lifestyle for your child will naturally result in a healthy height and growth pattern.

How Can Your Doctor Help?

As your child grows, it is important to take regular measurements of their height and weight. Doing so can help you and your pediatrician identify any problems while there is still time to address them. Once a child has finished puberty, growth stops. The earlier growth problems are identified, the more likely they will be able to be treated.

Pediatricians use a standardized growth chart at each well-child visit to plot your child’s height and weight to show patterns and ensure your child is growing as expected.

If you become concerned about your child's height and believe they may be growing too fast or too slowly, talk to your pediatrician. If your pediatrician agrees that there is cause for alarm they can order further tests such as the bone age x-ray discussed earlier. Lab tests can also be useful in determining the cause of growth problems and how to move forward with treatment. If your primary pediatrician is unable to reach a conclusion, he or she may refer you to a specialist such as a pediatric endocrinologist or pediatric geneticist for further evaluation and treatment.

As you can see, there are a number of factors to consider when trying to predict a child’s mature height. And even when considering all influences, it is nearly impossible to accurately estimate your child’s full grown adult height. Children will continue to grow until the growth plates in their bones fuse together, which occurs at different ages for different children. Thus, it is important to monitor your child’s growth and development at regularly scheduled checkups.

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